Tiger Woods: Memorial Exit Interview

Not to beat a dead horse — I’ve been writing about him all week long — but Tiger Woods had interesting things to say about the golf mastery process on his way to the parking lot. More on that in a moment.

But first, we have to acknowledge David Lingmerth for his first win on the PGA Tour. He won a three-hole playoff with a solid Justin Rose at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. They both finished at 15-under, two better than Jordan Spieth and Francesco Molinari.

Rose got into the playoff by making an amazing up-and-down on 18 after hitting a spectator in the head. (He checked on the man and then masterfully played a long pitch shot out of thick rough to two feet. Later, he gave the spectator an autographed glove.) Lingmerth and his wife watched all of this from the locker room.  

After I got done, I was just a little disappointed that I couldn’t make birdie in regulation myself to get to 16.  But then I saw Justin — saw him in the fairway bunker and I saw that he — I didn’t see the shot but I saw where his second shot ended up and I thought, you know what, that could be a hard up‑and‑down.  But he hit a beautiful chip shot in there.  I knew he could.  He’s such a great player.  So I was ready to go into playoff right away.

Lingmerth described the pressure of the playoff:

Well, I was pretty calm and collected for the most part.  I was really lucky to ‑‑ or not lucky, but I was happy to make par on that first hole after getting in trouble in the fairway bunker and everything.

And then the second hole, I thought I would maybe get a good opportunity to win on that hole because I was in the fairway and he was in the bunker, but that was my worst swing of the playoffs and I had to scramble for another par there.  But, yeah, playoffs are exciting and my heart was beating, but I think I handled it pretty well.

On the second playoff hole, Rose was over the green in two and the best he was able to do was hoist a soft lob shot that still went 19 feet below the hole…and then incredibly sunk the putt. But Lingmerth had his own moment of glory. He had a 12-foot, downhill slider that he calmly poured right in the middle of the hole. And here’s the best part of that: he said he was able to make that putt because he’d lost other playoffs, but he didn’t think it was his turn to lose this time:

Yeah, I was thinking to myself that I’d probably have a putt to win the tournament right there.  So I was just focusing on trying to get it to go in.  And then he drops it in so nicely in and this big, huge roar just kind of — kind of crazy feeling.

So I took a few moments just to let the crowd and myself to calm down, because I knew how big that next putt was going to be.  I’ve been in a few playoffs.  You win some, you lose some.  But I didn’t feel that it was my turn to lose this time, I thought I would — yeah, I was telling myself that I was going to make that putt and I was happy to see it go in.

And it was his turn to win this time when Rose was stymied off the tee by a spreading tree on the third playoff hole and couldn’t hit the green.

Tiger Woods, on the other hand, in the face of Saturday’s disastrous 85 tutorial, was gracious enough to stick around and take some questions after finishing Sunday with a 74 which included a bogey, double-bogey finish.

But, as disastrous as the 85 was, he had a huge crowd show up at 8:10 Sunday morning. Hard to know if was to witness glory or disaster, but they showed up:

The crowds were fantastic.  The crowds were awesome.  To come out this early and to have that many people support you like that, it was very special.

As for Tiger, he had a simple goal:

Just trying to shoot under par.  Just to go out there and shoot the best score I possibly can.  Just because I’m in last place doesn’t change how I play golf.  Whether it’s the first day or last day doesn’t matter, play all out.

He said that the 85 actually felt higher than that and it was on his mind as well as his goal for Sunday. Hard to do, but necessary in this case:

It was kind of both.  As I told you guys earlier in the week, I was changing a few things, and I was stuck right between patterns.  And I had to go through yesterday — I had to go through those painful moments, just like I did at Torrey and Phoenix to be able to make the leap I did at Augusta.

Yesterday was the same thing.  It was just unfortunately on a golf course like this where you can’t get away with much.  It kicked my butt pretty hard.

He talked about having to go backwards in the beginning in able to go forward:

The guys that have made tweaks, you have moments where you go backwards and then you make big, major strides down the road.  That’s just the way it goes. You have to look at the big picture.  You can’t be so myopic with your view and expect to have one magical day or one magical shot and change your whole game.  It doesn’t work that way.

For those of you disappointed that your most recent lesson didn’t produce immediate or lasting improvement, the best player in the game for years says it doesn’t work that way. It’s the lessons plus the reps to completely absorb changes. And nobody else on Tour — the greatest players in the world — would say any differently.

He did see improvement on Sunday. And he remains undaunted:

Today was more what we’ve been doing on the range.  And to be able to step up and tag those drives like I did today and even shape some of the irons, which I was struggling with early in the week, I got those shapes back again, but doing it with a different pattern.

I was stuck right between the patterns.  Today was what I’ve been doing on the driving range, and that was finally nice to see.  I got a solidness back, I was hitting the driver with both shapes, cuts and draws.  My irons are shaping it both ways again.  But I was doing it in a different way than I had been.  I’m doing it the way that I have been on the range.

He was asked if the 85 was humbling and illustrated that he has a sense of perspective on having those kinds of days:

It’s hard.  It’s real hard.  This is a lonely sport.  The manager is not going to come in and bring the righty or bring the lefty, you’ve just got to play through it.  And that’s one of the hardest things about the game of golf and it’s also one of the best things about the game of golf, when you’re on, no one is going to slow you down.  Also when you’re off, no one is going to pick you up either.  It’s one of those sports that’s tough, deal with it.  For us, unfortunately, you have those days, they’re five hours long.  And so those are long, tough days.

But you know what? He’s still full of optimism. It’s in his DNA.

I did not win, and I wasn’t even close.  So hopefully in two weeks time things will be a lot better and I’ll be ready to try to win a U.S. Open.

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