Interviews with Jordan Speith, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods, and Patrick Reed from the 2016 Hero World Challenge Pre-Tournament Press Conferences.
PRE-TOURNAMENT INTERVIEW: JORDAN SPIETH – 12/1/2016
JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Jordan Spieth into the interview room. He’s making his fourth career start at the Hero World Challenge and he’s obviously our 2014 champion, when he pretty much set every record of this tournament.
Jordan, welcome back. If we can get some comments at being here at Albany again.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, very happy to be back. This event’s certainly one that everybody tries to get the invite to at the end of the season. Lot of fun. It’s just a great week. Everybody kind of hangs out together, too. The activities you do are together, which really is unique about this tournament. It’s beautiful here. I mean, it’s hard to beat this place. 18 guys play fast.
In 2014 it was a nice springboard into the new year. One that we certainly take seriously, and as hard as it may be being down here to try and work your butt off, that’s something that we want to do this week every year because we know what it can do for us. So fortunately we had that experience a couple years ago and know the importance of it.
JOHN BUSH: And I know you’re probably hoping for some deja vu from 2014 following up that win in Australia. Just comment on your win recently there again.
JORDAN SPIETH: Yeah, it was in a different style, it was in a playoff. I kind of scraped it around a little bit. A bit rusty with my short game the beginning of the week and then driving the ball at the end of the week. But boy, it was a lot of fun. It was fun competing. Made a few putts at the end and then hit two great shots and a nice putt in the playoff.
Yeah, I mean, the Stonehaven Cup’s a fantastic trophy to have and to do it again down there off of a long break, it was May I guess since the last time we had won, nice to be on the podium again.
Q. Jordan, compared to your 2015 and ’16 performances, when you compare the two, what aspects of your game do you feel you need to bump up to get back to the phenomenal 2015 level for next year?
JORDAN SPIETH: You know, the only stat that really stood out was approach yardage from it was really my wedge play, 60 to about 140, 50 yards in the strokes gained department. I actually improved in putting this year from ’15. Driving the ball was similar enough; I can definitely improve in that department in the accuracy. It was really the scoring clubs, the proximity to the hole, the strokes gained from 60 to about 150 yards.
Q. Is there any part of you that wishes you were spending this week at the winter meetings at Baker’s Bay?
JORDAN SPIETH: No, I’m very happy to be here. Wishing the guys the best of luck over there though, of course.
Q. Obviously Tiger coming back this week is a big deal for everybody. Can you just talk about the players’; excitement level to kind of see him back competing and the fact that you guys really haven’t had a chance in your generation to compete against him when he’s at his best or getting close to it and what sort of things you’ll be looking for?
JORDAN SPIETH: He’s still just turning every head when he walks into the dining area. Or if he’s on the driving range, I mean everybody’s looking up to see him hit some shots. I was doing it this morning, interested obviously.
Hoping for the best, preparing for it, taking some time as I know he is. I think he’s accepted the fact that he’ll be patient. I think this is a perfect week for him to come back being fully healthy. Makes perfect sense down here. There’s less people that are out there watching, he can play quickly, he’s playing around a lot of people that he knows on a place that he’s familiar with and is a member. Seems like a good time to get some swings under the gun.
But like anybody that takes off, I mean, a year and a half for injury or whatever other reasons, you don’t just come back and expect anything. It’s going to take a little time. He’s obviously the only person in golf that is the only person in the last 30 years in golf that is any expectation you set, he’ll somehow prove to you that he can do better. But I think with this, I just hope that everyone gives him time. I hope he has the time to fall into a rhythm and just get enough tournaments where he can kind of build up that seeing the shots under competition under the gun because, you know, you can look back 10 years at shots you hit, it’s not the same as looking back the week before on a positive swing.
But from the talks I’ve had with him, he’s very excited, seems very confident and we all certainly we all hope for many reasons that he comes back fully healthy and his game’s fully back. A couple, to name one, you don’t ever want to see somebody go down because of injury, and two, I think it was a dream for all of us young guys to one day grow up and battle Tiger on a Sunday when he was playing his best and see if you can Y.E. Yang it, see if you can pull off a shot where you can take him down. That’s a dream for all of us, too.
So 2013 was my rookie year. Tiger was Player of the Year that year. He won five times, including THE PLAYERS and a lot of other big tournaments and won by a large margin. So it’s hard to say that we haven’t seen Tiger at his I mean, those weeks he’s at his best, those five weeks. I didn’t play with him in any of those, but I certainly hope that comes back and it will take a little bit of time I assume.
Q. You said after your win in Australia that it would do wonders for you going into next year. Could you expand on what that means to you, that win, and is it difficult to take that kind of confidence over an extended layoff?
JORDAN SPIETH: I might have been a bit dramatic in it will do wonders for me. What I mean to say is it provides momentum into this week, which in combination if I can work my way into contention, I now have shots and putts under the gun last week I can look back on to gain momentum out of this week.
2015, I won at Valspar. It was the first one of the year. I didn’t start until Phoenix. I wasn’t in Hawaii, I didn’t start until Phoenix, but I still knew because of Australia and Tiger’s event that if I continued to put myself into contention, my best stuff will continue to be there Sunday afternoon. That’s kind of what I’m able to draw back on is just the knowledge that it’s there, it was there recently, that kind of thing. When you go for five, six months at a time without closing one out, that’s when it gets a bit harder. May, that’s six months ago probably at this point.
Yeah, so it was tough, in Australia was tough. I was coming back from a lot of rest and very little practice. So here, certainly no excuses, ready to go from that win. I think into next year what it can do is the beginning of the year I have something very quickly to draw back on and that’s very important if you work your way into contention.
Q. What is your schedule going to look like in 2017 and what other changes are you making in the coming season that you might lessons you learned this year?
JORDAN SPIETH: It’s interesting, something came out where it said I was dialing back my schedule to play less and win more. I’m actually probably playing more tournaments from January to hopefully the Presidents Cup on the PGA Tour.
But what I meant was my overseas travel at the beginning of the year, I’m planning on starting in Hawaii and going from there. I’m going to play a couple tournaments I’ve played before that I didn’t play this past year early on in the season and keep myself on the PGA Tour schedule, try and get in a rhythm there early in the season as we build up into Augusta.
Q. Jordan, in your baseball playing days, was there any room for you to like Derek Jeter even though he wasn’t a Ranger? Have your paths crossed before and have you had a chance to talk to him much this week?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think everybody that’s a sports fan is a fan of Derek Jeter. I think he’s done things the right way. He’s been so loyal to the Yankees organization. I cursed the guy plenty of times for what he’s done against us. At the same time, it was with full respect obviously. He’s one of the greatest of all time and on a team where it was a dynasty team. He was the leader and the best player on that team for however many years he played. It’s really, really cool. You’re not kind of in the presence of a sports figure like Derek Jeter very often. Well, there’s not many alive, and you think of like Michael Jordan, you think of Tiger, Jack, it’s pretty special.
My path has not crossed his prior to this week. I met him last night actually at the Roses’ house. Didn’t talk a ton, it was just a passing. Hopefully, I mean, I know he picked up the game recently. I know just his athletic ability has made him I think a single digit handicap already. A 10, okay. So probably by the next month he’ll be a nine or an eight. He didn’t used to play a lot and now he’s in love with it.you actually hear that a lot from retired athletes, which is pretty cool.
Q. Did he say he was nervous about playing in public after only two years of playing?
JORDAN SPIETH: You hear that actually, too, and that’s always surprising. I can imagine, it doesn’t necessarily surprise me doing something uncomfortable to you with a lot of people watching and all they’ve seen you do is your skill to the highest level. So you’re going to want to do this everything he does, I assume he wants to do at the highest level and it’s just not going to happen if you just pick up a sport. So I wouldn’t go out and field grounders in a major league stadium and be any good at it, or try and hit a major league pitch. I would kind of look like a fool, I would be very nervous. So it’s interesting because you think the guy’s been on the biggest stage performing the best and very clutch, and then he does something so silly as playing in a proam and the fact that a few people are watching makes it but that’s I guess how it works.
Q. Jordan, how did your perspective of Tiger change being around him so much during the Ryder Cup?
JORDAN SPIETH: I don’t think my perspective changed a whole lot. He’s always been nothing but helpful and respectful to me. He continued that obviously. It’s so much team fire. I mean, he added so much to that locker room and within our group of four, our pod. I guess fire team I guess is what we’re supposed to call them. Tiger being kind of the leader and the one that was talking to us constantly and relaying to Davis back and forth, that was really cool to have and he was such a helping hand, inspiring. He was light, he was very light out on the course but intent at the same time. He knew when to be light and he’s been through it all.
I think he really enjoyed the experience that he had, which I think going into it a lot of us were a little interested on how he would feel about not being out there, being one of the guys playing. It was way better than anybody could have imagined. He really was very helpful for our team and he was working as hard as anybody was well in advance on pairings, on course setup, all that stuff. Got to know him a bit better, spent more time with him personally. Yeah, enjoyed the time for sure.
Q. Jordan, what do you think about the course here and the role that wind might play this week?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think it’s a fun course to play. Last year, what was it, 27 under, 26, 27 under?
JOHN BUSH: 25.
JORDAN SPIETH: What’s that, 25? I know we shot 20 and finished fourth, which is very rare in a tournament. I thought I shot like 8 or 9 when we came here. Michael reminded me. But the course was very different from this year. It was wet and there was not wind. It looks like the first couple days are going to be score able and then it looks like the wind is going to pick up on the weekend, and it truly changes the golf course.
There were also changes made. The course is longer. There’s a couple of the easier holes like 10 pushed back. Par 3s will be pushed back more than they were. Less scoring chances than last year, I think that’s great. I think you certainly can still pick your spots, take advantage of the par 5s, but you’ve got to hit shots into these very tricky greens. A lot of it, they’re very flat so if you’re coming out of the wrong locations it’s tough to hold them, especially when you’re downwind. So the wind plays a factor. Ball placement off the tees is very important.
Q. Do you think the scores will be lower than last year?
JORDAN SPIETH: I think the scores will be higher this year compared to last year based on what we’re seeing. I think the first two days will be similar. I think the weekend will play tougher than the weekend last year. But who knows. Down here you could have a storm blow in like that and then there’s no wind afterwards. It’s hard to tell, but that’s what I would forecast.
Q. I came in a little bit late. What kind of grade would you give yourself this year?
JORDAN SPIETH: I would give myself a not an A. I would say, I would say a B, Bplus.
JORDAN SPIETH: I wish I was in contention more than once in the majors, so that was a bit of a letdown. The positives, obviously having four wins this year, that’s awesome, that’s really special. You guys look around, the Ryder Cup was a win. DJ, Ryder Cup was a win this year, right?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I think so.
JORDAN SPIETH: So yeah, I would say probably Bplus.
JOHN BUSH: Jordan Spieth, thank you, sir.
PRE-TOURNAMENT INTERVIEW: DUSTIN JOHNSON – 12/1/2016
JOHN BUSH: We’ve got Dustin Johnson here making his fifth start at the Hero World Challenge. Dustin, just a phenomenal season for you. Just comment on now being back in Albany.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, yeah, always excited to come back here, great event. It’s a lot of fun to play and kind of gets my it’s kind of my practice heading into next year. Had a couple months off other than China. I don’t even know if I played golf there, but I was there. But you know it’s nice to get back into playing again, practicing and starting to get ready for next year.
JOHN BUSH: Just got off the golf course. Comment on the course conditions.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Out there? The course is in great shape. The greens are really nice. They’ve got a good pace to them and the course is in really good condition. It was pretty windy out there today, but I felt the course played very well.
Q. I don’t know which year it was, Dustin, but seemed like you took a big, big chunk of time off and frankly played the first couple of tournaments still practicing, still kind of getting the rust off. Was that last year, was it this year?
Bad question, never mind. What do you plan to do this year in terms of being ready for the start of, say, Kapalua?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, this is about the time where I’ll start, starting from now all the way through, so I’ve had kind of pretty much since China I’ve taken off. But now I’ll start practicing and getting ready for next year. I still expect to play very well this week. I’ve been practicing the last four days or so.
Q. How much have you played from China to the last four days?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: None.
Q. Dustin, last year you looked at your wedge game, you addressed that, you made leaps and bounds there, made some great results. Is there anything this offseason, any part of your game you’ll target just to dial up a little?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I’ll still continue to work on the wedge game, try to improve there. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but I think wedge game and then probably a little more mid irons, like 6, 7, 8iron I could have been a little bit better this past year with. Other than that, no, just kind of continue doing the same things I’m doing, short game, putting, wedges and then mid irons, but everything else I feel is pretty solid.
Q. Were you expecting to be here this week given your plans in the Philippines?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Obviously, because I never withdrew. No, we just never withdrew just because we knew there was a chance it wouldn’t happen, but no, I wasn’t expecting to be here.
Q. I have a two-part question. Would do you say your distance is the main contributor to your multiple wins this year, and what do you think about your swing makes you hit the ball so far?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: No, I don’t think the distance has anything to do with it, just a lot of work that I put in on the wedge game, that was a big factor this year. And then why I hit it so far, ask my coach because I just swing it and hit it.
Q. If you step back from competing against Tiger, so to speak, as a golf fan, do you have an anticipation from what you’ll see now that he’s healthy and back competing again?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously I know Tiger’s a guy you know he’s been working very hard at it, so I mean I expect him to play pretty well. It’s tough when you haven’t played for that long in a tournament, it’s hard to simulate tournament conditions. Not conditions, but just tournament mindset when you’re at home practicing. But I know he’s practiced a lot, so he’s going to be ready. Whether he’ll win or not, that’s a whole different feat. I predict he’ll do pretty well.
Q. Just as a follow, you guys of the younger generation mostly have not had a chance to really compete against him when he’s played at a high level. Do you relish the chance to do that if and when he gets back and stays healthy?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Sure, but I mean I’ve been out here for a while now so I got to play with him when he was really good. He still is really good, but when he was at his peak, he was very impressive. Wouldn’t surprise me if he got back to, I don’t know about quite that caliber, but who knows.
Q. Dustin, to follow up, you were talking about the 6, 7 and 8s in some of the analysis. Are you using any data analysis, data analytics, or where is any of this coming from all of a sudden?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, I don’t look at it, but my coaches do. They’ll just tell me where I need to where I could improve. But the ShotLink kind of does everything for you. I think it pretty much dissects your whole game so it’s pretty easy to look at it.
Q. So you haven’t gone into any other areas?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Not me personally, no, but people that I work with do.
Q. A lot of good young players from all over the globe today. To finally get that Player of the Year trophy home, what did it mean to you, what kind of satisfaction did that bring?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean yeah, winning Player of the Year was a great, great honor. I played really well this year. I mean obviously it was my best year I’ve had on Tour. Obviously it was very special to win that and very proud of it. But yeah, just kind of topped the year off with even more satisfaction.
Q. Dustin, for somebody who was watching Tiger back in the early 2000s in India, he was invulnerable when it came to his golf but there was some sort of aloofness when it came to we saw it on TV probably and read about with regard to other golfers, fellow golfers. Now we see him talking about camaraderie. Has he transformed into some kind of avuncular figure?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I couldn’t understand the last part of the question.
Q. Has he kind of transformed into a more genial
JOHN BUSH: Nicer, friendlier.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I think so. He’s definitely been at the Ryder Cup a couple months ago, it was great. And being a vice captain, it was a lot of fun. I don’t know. He hasn’t been playing for a while now, so I think just being able to spend time with him not really while he’s playing golf, just to get to know him a little bit better has been really nice.
Q. Dustin, what did you walk away from the Ryder Cup knowing about Tiger that you hadn’t known about him before, seeing him in that different role?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I don’t know. I mean, I knew him pretty well, so I don’t know if I really learned anything different. It was just good to see him out there and how excited he was and how much he was putting into the team. Got a lot of texts before the Ryder Cup of his ideas, so it was just funny and fun to have him be a part of it and I think it was great.
Q. So what was more intimidating for you, the first time you met Wayne or the first time you met Tiger?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Probably Tiger, for sure.
Q. You had to think about it?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, I was just thinking when I met them. It was so long ago, I don’t remember. I would say Tiger because the first time I really met him I think was when I played with him one day. I obviously said hey or what’s up to him passing in the locker room or something, but I played with him, I can’t even remember where.
Q. A practice round or a round?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, like I played a tournament round. Yeah, that was definitely more intimidating. Wayne’s way too nice.
Q. Do you look at this week as the end of a great year or just the start of the next season for you?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: That’s a good question. Probably the start of the year for me. It’s kind of obviously I look at Maui as the start, but it’s the end of a good year and the start of a new one.
JOHN BUSH: Dustin Johnson, thanks for your time.
PRE-TOURNAMENT INTERVIEW: HENRIK STENSON: 12/1/2016
JOHN BUSH: We’d like to welcome Henrik Stenson into the interview room. He’s making his fourth career start here at the Hero World Challenge, including a second place finish in 2014. Henrik, welcome back to the Hero.
HENRIK STENSON: Thank you. What about the other ones?
JOHN BUSH: I just have that one. They’ve all been good, though.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I can’t quite remember. I played at Sherwood a couple times back in the day, but I can’t quite recall. I think I was fourth once at least.
JOHN BUSH: I think all top5 finishes.
HENRIK STENSON: All right. Let’s continue that trend then hopefully.
JOHN BUSH: Talk a little bit about the golf course and being back here at Albany.
HENRIK STENSON: It’s a wee breeze as they say in Scotland. It’s pretty windy here and I expect us to have some wind in the next couple of days. Maybe a bit less here on Thursday, Friday, but then I think on the weekend it might be, that fan might be on again. That obviously is one of the big factors around here, makes some of the downwind holes play really short and some of the other ones play really long. I think I hit two two times I hit 4wood into par 4s into the wind today and I hit a driver and 9iron on a par 5, so that kind of shows how short some holes can play downwind and how long a par 4 can play into the wind. I don’t recall the last time I hit two woods into par 4s. So it’s definitely blowing a bit, and funny enough that affected the shots on my amateur partners a couple of times out there and it was a pretty tricky day.
JOHN BUSH: Before questions, you just capped off obviously an excellent season in Europe. Just comment a little bit on how that felt.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, yeah, managed to wrap up the best year in my career so far. It was, yeah, the win at The Open being the highlight, of course, as you all know. It was a strong year. I had a lot of strong finishes on the European Tour. I won in Germany a couple of weeks prior to The Open, and then I can’t remember whether it’s close to 10 top10s I think and quite a lot in the higher numbers of the top10 as well. So it’s been a solid year. Olympics was a highlight, too, and very nice to round it off with once again winning the Race to Dubai. So yeah, it’s been a great year and kind of ready to go into holiday mode, but we’ll try to make a few putts and a few birdies here before we start thinking about Christmas presents.
Q. Obviously Tiger coming back this week is a big narrative here. Can you talk a little bit about what your anticipation is as a player for him coming back and maybe the things you might look for when you’re watching him?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, the main thing is that his back is in good shape and he’s healthy. That’s always the first part, and that seems to be pretty good from what I heard, what he mentioned to me at the Ryder Cup. Seems to be in pretty good shape there.
I think golf game, he’s been out of competitiveness for quite some time so that might be a little while before you find your bearings again. But, as you know, he’s done some remarkable things throughout his career and if there’s someone that can jump right back up and play some great golf again, that would be him. He’s got all the experience, and it might take a bit of time and it might go quickly, you never know.
Q. Congratulations, first of all, on a great year.
HENRIK STENSON: Thank you.
Q. What’s coming up next year, can you give us some ideas where you’re going to be?
HENRIK STENSON: I was asked in Dubai, I said “copy paste” That would be nice.
Q. I can’t guarantee that, sorry.
HENRIK STENSON: No, neither can I, unfortunately. In terms of schedule you mean? My schedule will look pretty much the same as it has done the last three, four, five years I would say. I don’t see any major changes. Announced that we’re going to play in the Zurich Classic together with Justin in late April. Other than that, I expect the spring to be very similar. I’ll play some in the Middle East early on and that’s kind of mid towards end of January, early February. Then I jump on again on the Florida swing. I think Tampa would most likely be my first one on the U.S. mainland. We’ve got the World Golf Championship in Mexico the week before, so up until Augusta I’ll pretty much play the same schedule as I’ve done this year and the previous ones.
Q. (No microphone.)
HENRIK STENSON: No, I never really played west coast and that’s not going to change this time around. I like my tournaments in the Middle East and the weather is a little bit more secure there, I think.
Q. Henrik, you had a great year, as you just said. Dustin had a great year, Emiliano, many others have had their best year. Can we say that all of you are getting ready for Tiger to come back and is he going to face tougher competition than he would when he was still at his peak?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think the game has changed, changes more every year. Competition gets harder. There’s more and more challenges at the majors and all the big tournaments. There’s more players that can win on a weekly basis. So I think it would be even harder this time to be as dominant as Tiger was in the early 2000s because every year the game progresses and more and more players coming out.
The younger players that come on the scene these days are better than we were 15, 20 years ago. They’re more prepared. We’ve got a lot of different ways at being better at a younger age. The coaches are better. You’ve got probably a more holistic view on your golf game and the whole thing earlier than maybe we had, and the physical side and eating. You know, whatever it might be.
So I think it would be hard where golf is at right now to be as dominant as Tiger was even if Tiger were now to play as good as he did in 2000, it would be hard to be as dominant in today’s game.
Q. Henrik, I have sort of a tongueincheek question to start with. Did the Roses roll out the red carpet for you last night?
HENRIK STENSON: Roll out the red carpet?
Q. Did they roll out the read carpet for you?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, we had a lovely time and got to spend some time with some of my other colleagues and friends as well so it was a good enjoyable evening. I think that kind of sums this week up a little bit as well. It’s a limited field, we all know each other well and we can have some nice social times also. That practice ground might not be worn out after play, either.
Q. Now that you’re into your last tournament of the season, how much confidence would it give you now going to Augusta and U.S. Open as a reigning major winner?
HENRIK STENSON: I think it was a career dream and a boyhood dream that came true at The Open, winning a major, and it still brings a smile to my face calling myself a major champion. It’s very nice to have had that one, and of course I’m looking ahead for next year and trying to come well prepared.
Augusta is the one where I’ve done my worst results in any of the majors over time, so we’ll see if we can figure something out there. I’m open to suggestions. I’ll give you my email later, you can all send me what I should do differently because I still haven’t figured it out in 11 tries. But yeah, your confidence is definitely a little bit higher when you’ve got one of those under your belt.
Q. I don’t know how much time you spent in Sweden, but what was the reaction in Sweden to winning The Open compared with your silver medal from the Olympics?
HENRIK STENSON: I haven’t been back since. I was a couple days in Sweden after winning The Open, but after the Olympics I haven’t been back and I will not really be back in Sweden until probably end of May, early June next year. By then they’ve probably forgotten it all, so we’ll see.
It’s two totally different things. Everyone within the world of golf knows how big it is to win The Open and win a major championship. Everyone in the sporting world knows what an Olympic gold or an Olympic medal is. So it’s two different things and two different audiences that kind of pick up on the difference.
Me personally, I said that before going to the Olympics I was looking forward to it, but I would always hold a major championship higher than winning the gold or winning the Olympics just as my own preference being very involved in my sport. But if you go anywhere in the world and you say you’ve got an Olympic gold medal, people would know what that means and what you achieved.
So it was a much, much greater view in figures because it was basically I think nine times more people watching Justin and myself battle it out for the gold medal compared to me winning The Open at Troon. So the way it’s broadcast and different I think it was very good for golf, too, to be there, to be at the Olympics. And we put on a good show and I had lots of messages from people who never watched golf before and all of a sudden want to take up the game or they got very intrigued watching us play and having a close competition. It was a lot of good things I think we achieved by being in Rio.
Q. Henrik, about the Masters, could it be as simple as you wanted it so badly, and having won a major, can that make it take any of that pressure off once you get there?
HENRIK STENSON: I think with Augusta, we all play a different game. We’ve all got strength and weaknesses and certain courses are going to play in our favor or against that. I think possibly at Augusta some of the things that I don’t necessarily do well or the way I play my game doesn’t really favor me on that golf course at times. I think that could be one reason of it. It certainly isn’t experience. By now I’ve played that course enough and I feel very comfortable playing there, but still I’ve got to try and make a few changes and see if we can get it right.
Q. Come to think of it, how many players can actually say that they’re having their best year at 40? It’s like somebody winning a FIFA World Beta (inaudible) at 30. What I mean to ask is, what did it take for you to be at this level at this stage and does it hold hope to somebody like Tiger?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think experience in this game plays a big part. Staying fairly in good shape, staying fit, I think you can get a few more years on the back end of your career. But there’s no question about that I’m on the second half of my career, I know that. I’m looking for these next four, five years in all the big events and that’s kind of the way I look at it in terms of time frame. But obviously it’s very nice to have your best year at the age of 40. I had my second best year, that was in 2013, and I wasn’t sure at that point that I was ever going to be able to beat that, but I somehow managed to do that this year. Yeah, I’m sure guys in similar age bracket would definitely see that it’s possible to play your best and it’s nice to keep some of the youngsters at bay.
Q. A little bit along those lines, one of Tiger’s biggest challenges will be rebuilding confidence that he’s lost. You got to a point in your career where you had to totally rebuild your confidence. What was that journey like and the stepping stones there and how patient did you have to be?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, you have to be patient. And I think in terms of your game, it’s a process. You’ve got to look at your game, you’ve got to accept where you’re at because it doesn’t matter if you won five tournaments, 10 tournaments or 100 tournaments before, you’re only as good as you are for the time being. Of course you can use some of your previous experiences and that would still be a confidence or help knowing what you achieved in your past because your ability’s not going to go away just because you’re in a slump or you’re not playing as well. If you’re a winner of that caliber, that’s still in there and that’s never going to go away. What goes away is your form and your ability to bring that out.
So you’ve got to work hard on that over time and I think really committing yourself to the longterm processes, that’s what gets you back. It’s very easy if you’re out of shape with your game, that you’re out there on the range on a Tuesday, Wednesday, you want to find something that’s going to work on Thursday and it very rarely does. It’s more having that patience over time and working on those different areas of your game and the processes within there to every day get a little bit closer to where you want to be and eventually the game will get back and the results will come as a consequence.
So it is all grind, but it can certainly be done. I’ve gone through some ups and downs over time, probably bigger than most, and if I didn’t have that patience and drive to get back, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking about winning The Open Championship, I know that much.
Q. Just curious, do you recall the first interaction you had with Tiger, first time you met him, played with him, something like that? Dustin would have said no by now.
HENRIK STENSON: I think it might have been, could have been American Express in San Francisco in ’05. I know I played with Phil there a couple of times, but I think I played with Tiger as well because I think I recall telling my caddie at the time, like there’s no point trying to get the crowds to stand, I’ll just try and focus and hit my shot because as soon as he either made a putt or hit his tee shot, approach, everyone was just walking. I think that’s a memory I had from there that I told my caddie, just leave it, you can’t stop a herd moving forward at that pace. It was probably ’05.
Q. Were you intimidated to play with him?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I don’t think I’ve ever been that. I think I’ve been a player that’s been rising to the occasions of playing with the best player and the best players in the world. That’s always triggered me to try and get the best out of my game and for me to focus harder and give it my best to try and beat them. No, I don’t think, he hasn’t quite succeeded in that part.
Q. As you’ve got closer to 40 in the last two, three years, have you changed anything about your game? Have you and your coach worked on any aspects of your swing to make it where it got to this year?
HENRIK STENSON: No, that’s always been longterm process and longterm work. Golf is a game where you’re never going to reach that goal where you’re finished. You can always be better at all the different areas of the game and I think that’s, for me it’s two different parts. One is the competitive part. I like to compete, I like to beat the other guys out there and try and bring my best game, but it’s also working on my game and trying to improve as a player. As long as you can keep that drive and keep on doing that, you’re always going to move forward.
As I said earlier, the competition gets harder and harder every year. The day that you stop and you’re satisfied with where you’re at, the other guys are going to run past you. But we haven’t really done anything different. We’re still running around in the same circles and trying to become better.
What was the second part of the question? I’ve lost myself here. I started going in a circle.
Q. Any specific swing changes?
HENRIK STENSON: No, no, not really. I probably hit it two yards shorter than I used to three years ago, but otherwise it’s sort of the same.
Q. Since you haven’t seen Tiger for a very long time, was he this kind of backslapping golfer that he is right now apparently back in 2005 with fellow golfers, especially international golfers?
HENRIK STENSON: Sorry, I didn’t get that.
Q. If he was on backslapping terms with fellow golfers as he is apparently now back in 2005, and specifically from international golfers, from a nonAmerican golfer’s point of view?
HENRIK STENSON: I think when he was at his peak of his career and he was very focused. I think he was always very much into his own bubble. He did his practice, he didn’t spend much time at the venues. If I remember correctly, he would go elsewhere to practice because the pressure on him from everything around the tournaments and all the fans and everything. My memory was that he spent very little time at the events, did his work elsewhere and focused on his things.
I’ll tell you he’s more social now than he was back then, but there’s certainly that would be a big reason for that as well, that if you stop and talk to everyone, if you’re signing everything, it’s just impossible to do that. You can’t keep that many people happy in terms of fans and everything. You’re trying as a player, but you can sign a thousand autographs and if you miss two, there’s always going to be someone unhappy somewhere. Yeah, potentially he’s opened up a little bit more than he used to, yeah.
JOHN BUSH: Henrik Stenson, thank you.
PRE-TOURNAMENT INTERVIEW: TIGER WOODS – 12/2/2016
Q. Tiger, how did it feel?
TIGER WOODS: It felt good out there. I mean, this golf course is playing tough out here for these amateurs, it’s just whipping out here. But I think they did the right thing, slowed the greens down, single cut them because they would have been too quick with this much wind.
Q. Did you get out of it what you wanted today?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I did. I did a little bit of work for probably I’m guessing probably 12 holes or so. After that it was a lot of, we were jawing pretty good. It was good. We had a good group of guys. Gary’s working, he’s got a few things going on right now, which is kind of funny and entertaining throughout the day. Pawan and I were talking about the future of this event and some other opportunities.
Q. What was the best thing about the day?
TIGER WOODS: I think overall just going out there and playing. I hadn’t you know, I probably did a dumb move in not playing in sunglasses out here because we’re in carts sipping around here and walking between holes and I’m starting to get a pretty good headache from squinting so much. Live and learn and tomorrow I’ll have them on.
Q. If you could describe your mindset for tomorrow in one word, what would you go with?
TIGER WOODS: I’ll be focused, I’ll be ready.
Q. What do you think needs the most work right now after 18?
TIGER WOODS: Probably my putting. My speed’s off. I did some work two and three days ago, but they were double cut and now they’re single cut, different speed. Most of my putts I left short. The last couple holes I made a couple putts and I was telling Joey I’m going to hit it at least four, five feet past the hole, I don’t care, and they were going about a foot past. So I need a little bit of work this afternoon.
Q. What about your game surprised you today?
TIGER WOODS: Surprised me? Not much. You know, I felt good with pretty much everything. I was be able to hit all the shots I needed to hit. The wind was definitely pumping today and it was good to see it under in this direction. The time since I’ve been here on Saturday it’s been blowing out of the other direction, so it’s good to see it out of this direction.
Q. What do you do tonight? I guess you work on your putting this afternoon?
TIGER WOODS: I’ll work on putting this afternoon and I’ve got our welcome dinner tonight. So have a little bit of work to do tonight and then I’ll be ready tomorrow.
Q. How much different is it wearing pants walking?
TIGER WOODS: More than anything it’s packing, I almost forgot.
PRE-TOURNAMENT INTERVIEW: PATRICK REED – 12/2/2016
Q. Talk about where you feel your game is, your form is right now, this week.
PATRICK REED: I feel good. Yeah, I haven’t played golf in tournament play for four weeks, so excited to get back and get back in the competitive mode. Game feels good. Feels like it’s trending where I need it to trend and just kind of look forward to tomorrow getting ready.
Q. Anything in particular you’ve been working on in the offseason getting ready for next season?
PATRICK REED: Just trying to get everything improved and tightened up just a little bit more than last year. I feel like everything’s kind of moving in the right direction. Just looking forward to getting back to competitive golf because beating balls on the driving range is completely different than playing on the golf course.
Q. Talk about coming back here. You’ve got some good vibes, good memories from last year and going low. Do you feel like you have an advantage in confidence on this course in comparison to some of the other competition here?
PATRICK REED: Well, I’m definitely confident. The golf course is great and I feel like it suits me pretty well. I really, it’s just going to depend on how the weather is, how the wind’s going to be blowing and et cetera because these past couple days it’s been howling out here and it’s been tough.
I feel like there’s going to be a premium on your ballstriking, but also your putts and your speed. For us it’s going to be go out there and not make any callous errors because if it’s blowing as hard as it is today, you’re going to hit some shots that you hit perfectly and (inaudible) and you’re going to hit other shots that you mishit that are going to end up in good spots. It’s all about eliminating those errors and mistakes.
Q. Talk about tomorrow’s twosome. You get to be the guy that partners with Tiger in his first tournament in nearly 16 months. What are your thoughts and feelings on that?
PATRICK REED: I can’t wait. I’m really excited for him, I’m excited for the game of golf to have Tiger back, and to have that honor to be able to play with him in his first competitive round back in 16 months, it’s going to be awesome. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun to go out and play with him, especially with him being our vice captain at that Ryder Cup. To be able to spend some more time with him and hang out and enjoy the walk and allow him to enjoy his first day back in competitive golf because golf’s been waiting for him and I believe he’s ready so it should be fun.
Q. Talk about the walk, what do you imagine the mood, the tone being tomorrow? Will there be some banter between you?
PATRICK REED: Yeah, it depends. If the weather’s poor tomorrow, then you just never know. If it’s good weather tomorrow, I’m sure we’ll be talking, but it kind of all depends on how much of a grind it is out there and also really kind of how we feel. At the end of the day, I want to play my best golf and I know he wants to play his best golf so we’re still going to be out there focusing and grinding, it just all kind of depends.
Q. Have you played with him before in a tournament, and if so, when was the last time?
PATRICK REED: Yeah, I played with him in Phoenix this last year, Jordan, myself and Tiger. First time I ever played with him in competitive was two years ago at Isleworth at Hero and we both played some really good golf. So hopefully we can feed off that and (inaudible.)
Q. How would you characterize your friendship, your relationship with Tiger at this stage? Do you feel your bond strengthened at the Ryder Cup?
PATRICK REED: To be able to spend time with him in Ryder Cup and kind of off the golf course, it’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully we’ll both play some good golf and shoot some low ones.
Q. Were there any moments, periods of time you guys spent together at Ryder Cup where you felt like your bond went to the next level or your friendship was strengthened?
PATRICK REED: Oh, yeah, for sure. It definitely grew. There’s a lot of times we were out there and we were walking the golf course, just a couple things he would say or I would say that I just felt brought us a little closer together, and really it’s just those events are to bond and kind of grow relationships with other players. Because golf’s a lonely sport. You go out and it’s an individual sport but it’s a team event. You have the whole week to build relationships and grow with other players. The funny thing is there’s some that you wouldn’t think some personalities you’d think are completely different. You wouldn’t think on a regular basis that you can build a relationship with somebody or that you’d actually have a lot of common in some guys, and then you get to Ryder Cup, you’re like man, you look at things the same way and things like that. So it’s awesome and it’s definitely needed for the game of golf. I feel like it’s helped in my relationship with Tiger and we’ll go out there and play some good golf. I want him to go out and get back to a winning form because I want to see it.
Q. What’s your mentality going into tomorrow? Obviously there’s a lot of feel good sentiment around Tiger, players want him to play well, but at the same time you’re all competing against him in a tournament and you know he wants to beat you guys.
PATRICK REED: Yeah, I still want to beat him. I mean, I still want to beat Tiger, Tiger still wants to beat me. It’s just like everybody out there. We have friends out here on Tour that want to win on a week to week basis and you want them to play well, but at the same time you’re out there trying to win a golf tournament. I want him to play well not only for the game of golf, I want him to play well for him.