Exclusive: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy speak to CNN
CNN’s Living Golf is on the road with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy this month, undeniably the leading lights of golf today.
For the first time ever on camera, the two best players in the world sit down for a joint interview ahead of their head-to-head clash in China. While the pair often find themselves locked in fierce competition, it’s clear the rivalry between the two men is far from acrimonious, with more than a hint of a blossoming ‘bromance.’
Living Golf airs on CNN International Saturday, Nov. 10 at 1700ET; Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1230ET; Saturday, Nov. 17 at 1230ET; and Sunday, Nov. 18 at 1700ET.
Follow Living Golf host Shane O’Donoghue on Twitter at @ShaneODonoghue.
FULL TRANSCRIPT AND IMAGE AFTER THE JUMP.
**PLEASE CREDIT ANY USAGE TO CNN’S LIVING GOLF**
Shane O’Donoghue: Guys great to see you together, I think this may be something of a first. And the relationship – we’re seeing a lot more of this in the press as well. Can you describe the nature of this relationship between yourselves?
Rory McIlroy: I think it’s sort of evolved since Abu Dhabi at the start of this year. I’d played with him before but never really got a chance to speak to him in depth and, you know, I think we both have a lot in common – we’re both big sports fans and I think our relationship has evolved from there. We’ve played together quite a lot this year, and it’s been great for me to get to know him and maybe try and pick up a few things and learn from him too.
Tiger Woods: We were paired together quite often – especially in the play-offs and we’ve kind of battled each other a few times, but I think as Rory was alluding to, we have a lot in common. Granted, there’s an age difference but I had a huge age difference with my other good friend O’Meara, but we had so much in common, just so easy to be around and I think our relationship will certainly grow over the years, but so too will our competitiveness – I don’t think that’s going to change.
RM: And Tiger was a huge hero on mine growing up, from watching him win his US Amateurs back in the 90’s to watching his fist Masters win in 97, um…you know, basically all the way through, watching him do so many great things on TV…and then, you know, getting the chance to know I’m getting the chance to compete against him is a something that I always dreamed of. To get to know him and hang around with him is something that I find pretty cool.
SO: In what ways has he inspired you?
RM: He set the bar so high with what he was doing with golf, he transformed the image of golf you know, made it a younger sport, got younger people into it and I guess gave it a more athletic image as well. And that’s something that I really liked about it.
SO: Tiger beyond your dad, Earl, who was your real golfing inspiration?
TW: Obviously it’s Jack. He set the bar for every one of us. Um…the best player ever in the biggest championships.
SO: He was an incredible talent, even as a junior, and to see what he did with his career is remarkable and I know you both look up to him. But when it comes to yourselves, when did you each know that you had a particularly special talent? When did it become apparent to you? Rory?
RM: Um…I guess for me it was when I started to beat the men. I started to win big amateur tournaments at 15, 16 and then I really thought that I could have a future in the game.
TW: Very similar um…I had been successful at basically every age bracket – every time I went up, I wasn’t as successful. So um…junior golf; I did really well, won a bunch of tournaments. Amateur golf; I did really well in college, won a few US Amateurs but still every time I went up to the next level as a junior I went up to amateur golf – didn’t do very good. Then when I was an amateur I went up to the professional ranks and didn’t do very good so when I first turned pro, there was still a lot of anxiousness and certainly doubt that I could actually do this, um…full time.
SO: When you look at someone like Rory who has come on in the last five years what do you see in particular that impresses you?
TW: Well, it’s athleticism. It’s the confidence; it’s going out there and hitting shot for shot. It is fun to play against somebody like that who has a lot of belief in their own ability and goes out there and does it. These guys are so athletic, you know. It’s a new era in our sport and we’re kind of in a transition, from when I first came out here, no one worked out except me and Vijay – I’d see him, we’d be in the same gyms and it would only be us! That was it. Now you see everybody and that’s neat – its neat to see someone of Rory’s class take golf seriously and consider it a sport, and not just an activity. You think it would be asinine to not train to play any other sport, baseball, football, whatever it may be, you know what I’m not going to train, I’m just going to go out there and play. You have to train to play…and that’s the next generation of guys.
RM: You see the guys coming out now like Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland, there are a lot of guys who are so strong and make really powerful moves at the ball and if you’re going to meet them you have to match them or better them in some way.
SO: The fact that we’ve got the two of you together here now – that’s not something that we would have seen maybe 5 years ago with you being the dominant player. Is that a change in you perhaps – this friendship among the top guys, a willingness to be interviewed together?
TW: Well, I think we had that feeling; we just didn’t share it with the public. I got along pretty good with the guys in my area but it was more just in the locker room and obviously down the fairways. For some reason Rory and I have become really good friends and will continue to be that way. You know it’s actually pretty funny you say that because I talked to Jack about it and Jack and Arnold didn’t like each other at the very get go, they just didn’t see eye to eye, but now they’re the best of friends, so obviously that does happen – mutual respect over time and getting to know someone.
SO: Yeah. Nick Faldo was talking recently, as well, in commentary that it wasn’t done in his way, or his whole methodology was to keep it to himself and to be a little bit aloof in how he carried himself certainly on the course and in private as well. That he didn’t have those sort of relationships and that fed into his performances…
RM: Um…(Tiger laughs) I mean for me, ah, you’re on tour long enough and you don’t need enemies out there. You want to have friends. You know, life on Tour can get a bit lonely at times and you wanna have guys that you can go out for dinner with and you’re out there long enough, 25 weeks a year, so you may as well make it fun. You’re seeing most of the guys each week and you’ve got to have someone to talk to. If that’s what worked for Faldo, then great. It obviously worked for him really well but I don’t think it would work for me.
SO: Very quickly on the Ryder Cup, your thoughts on the victory and the defeat from both sides and, in particular, the Saturday night – the feeling in both camps.
RM: Yeah, um…I think Europe winning those last few points on Saturday night it really did something for the team morale and Jose Maria made a pretty emotional speech on Saturday night and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. And we went out on Sunday and just gave it our all – and everything worked out in our favour from, you know, me making it to the course on time to, you know, Justin holing those two putts against Phil it all came together for us and we got the points we needed in the end
SO: From the American standpoint obviously it was a devastating Sunday and the conclusion, hopes were so high and Davis Love was held in such high esteem it looked like it was going to be your day on the Sunday.
TW: We’re the ones, as players, who had to go out and execute and we didn’t do that on Sunday and um…you know, I think when we ended up watching it was, the swing match was Rosey’s swing, was Rosey’s. It looked like Phil might have holed it on 17 and the match would probably have been over there and then we would have won the cup. But then Rosey makes it and birdies 18 and it just swung and um…it got to a point where it came down to Stricks and myself at the back. Unfortunately this is the second time that I’ve been at the back where my point didn’t matter. When we had an opportunity to close it out, we didn’t do it.
SO: And, for you personally, was it a big disappointment?
TW: Certainly it is, yes. Um…especially the first 3 sessions that I played. Because um…my first session I did not play very well and ended up losing the match, but the next two I really played well and only got a point out of it. Unfortunately I ran into Nicolas that day and have never seen a human being putt that well for 18 holes. But I thought I played pretty well myself, but unfortunately it just didn’t add up on points.
SO: Did you apologise to some of your team mates – is that true?
TW: Absolutely, yeah. I took the guys aside and said “hey I tried my best but it just didn’t work out.”
SO: Very briefly to summarize the year – how do you in your own words categorise what’s happened in 2012?
RM: I think 2012’s been a great year for me, um, I think anytime you win a Major Championship you’ve got to count it as a great year. You know I won thee other times…um, I had that little bit of a mini slump in the summer where I didn’t play well for a few tournaments, but that happens. …and ah now I just want to finish what has already been a great season, just finish it off very strong.
SO: How do you assess it Tiger?
TW: Um as Rory said, winning a Major Championship makes it a good year, and I’ve had a great year winning three time and obviously not winning for a while and being hurt for such a long time to come back and when, there were a lot of people who said I wouldn’t win again and then to win three times this year and pass Jack on the all-time win list. I think that’s pretty coo
SO: You talk briefly there about people writing you off, do you read what…
TW: I don’t have to read, because every press conference I go to I get hammered – “oh you’re never going to win again blah blah blah” and it was every tournament I went to so ah…it was a lot there, for about a year and a half ,where I had to answer that question every single round, pre-tournament. And um…to do that all a lot and then, as I said, to pass Jack on the all-time win list this year and ah…to do it 10 years younger than him, I think that’s a pretty neat accomplishment.
SO: You obviously got off to such a flyer as a kid turning pro and multiple Major wins. Rory’s now doing that. You know you’re in this sort of Tiger, Jack, Rory conversation at the moment and obviously Rory’s got that potential. Do you see him in that league?
TW: Absolutely. I mean, he has the potential to win countless more tournaments. Not just in the States – he’s a global player and he’s only going to get better. Still young, still 23 and still learning how to play shots. His game is still developing so that’s a neat thing – the high side is so high, and he’s already accomplished so much as an early age, that it will be fun for me as a competitor to go against him as he’s getting better.
SO: How desperate are you to get that next Major?
TW: It would be nice, certainly. It’s been four years now since I’ve won a Major Championship and I’ve been there with chances over those four years but I’d like to get another one, no doubt.
SO: And Tiger the whole emphasis with Jack on 18, it’s a question that has to be asked every time, but you still see it as a realistic goal to surpass 18?
TW: Absolutely. Don’t forget – it took him to 46, you know, so with the fitness routine and eating properly and staying in shape I could play for a very long time and I’m looking forward to that opportunity. You know if you say, hypothetically, 10 years that’s 40 more Major Championships I get a chance to play in and compete in and try and win and hopefully I can try and at least win five of those.
SO: And Rory, you’ve spoken about not really targeting 14, or 18 or Jack’s total. What’s most important – having your own career slam? Would that be a logical next goal for you?
RM: Yeah, I guess you could say that. I’m half way there to the career slam. I’ve won two, I just want to try for a third. And when I get my third I want to try and get my fourth. It’s never been something that I’ve put a number on – obviously I looked up to Tiger so much as a kid and, obviously, he’s always had that goal of trying to surpass Jack’s number. Maybe one day I’ll think about it a little more and try and put a number on it, but right now I’m at two and I want to get to three. I think the next big goal for me is if I could win the career gland slam. It would be a huge point; a huge career high. Not many players have done it in the past and ah…it would be great to add my name to that list.
SO: What do you make of what he did 11 years ago on having all four titles at the one time?
RM: It was just the best run of golf that was ever seen. I think maybe Byron winning is something which is comparable. But holding all four major championships at the one time is incredible and, I mean, it is probably just a pity that it didn’t all happen in the one year because I am not sure that would ever happen again.
SO: You talk about peaking for majors. Certainly for next year you seem to have reduced your schedule, primarily so you can peak for those tournaments – is that the philosophy behind it?
RM: Yeah, I think for us the bulk of the golf season is between April and August and that is when you want to play your best golf. I want to do everything around that will allow myself, as tiger said, to play my best golf four weeks a year. That means maybe cutting down a few events here and there and really making sure you are ready for those four majors.
SO: Briefly guys, talking about the tours at the moment – the European tour, the PGA tour; where do you see them in 10-years time? What are the changes that you see down the road?
TW: Well, we have already changed this year, this coming year, to a non calendar season. So that is going to be an interesting one for us. Because we end the tour championship, basically, have a few weeks off and get the Ryder cup and the President’s cup in there and then start the next season. More importantly for us, as players, is trying to figure out the playing schedule because it is a lot of golf basically from the British Open through to the end of the year. We have World Golf Championships, we have a couple of majors in there, we have the play-off events, The Ryder Cup, The President’s. Then these guys play their play-off structured into Race of Dubai then we start off next season. There is a lot of golf to be played in there, in the summertime towards the fall, and it will be trying to figure out the schedule.
SO: Which brings me to another question with regard all of that scheduling. You have played in big money events in Turkey recently, you are here for another one day big money event in China, but you are both not going to be playing in the HSBC which is in this country later this week. Can you tell us the background into those decisions?
RM: Yeah, I mean, for me I have played the Mission Hills course before and every year when my schedule I want to try and go to the courses that give me the best opportunity to win. I think that someone needs a week off somewhere, and if I played HSBC I would be playing five events in a row to finish the season. And after such a busy summer and the Ryder Cup and everything that went on there has got to be an event somewhere that has got to be left out and this year, unfortunately, it was HSBC. For the reason that I wasn’t a fan of the golf course and, you know, I just needed a week off and that was the event that I left out.
SO: And Tiger?
TW: For me? I’m tired. I have played a lot of golf towards the end of the year and doing outings it’s so easy. They are very easy to do but getting up for another Championship, for me, I have one more tournament before the end of the year and then I am done till next year. I wanted a break. I wanted a long extensive break from competing to get back into training.
SO: Final question. Rory like when you consider Tiger’s career, you consider where you are at now, world number one at 23 years of age, what concerns you most? Is it injuries? Is it scrutiny? What is it that you take on board with regard to where you are at now in you position?
RM: I think one of the biggest things for me is longevity. You know I am 23-years-old. I have still got a lot of years ahead of me. I just don’t want to be burnt out. I don’t want to get to the stage where I am 30-years-old or 35-years-old and I…I don’t want to say fed up with the game but it is a long time to be playing the sport and I just want to pace myself and I think Tiger has done that so well for the last 15 years and that is something that I am going to try and do, going forward.
SO: You have had to deal with so much scrutiny, being the dominant figure for so long. What advice do you have for Rory at this stage Tiger?
TW: Absolutely what he just said – just pacing yourself. Everyone is going to be trying to bring you to their event, deter you away from time that is spent practising. How did you get there? You didn’t get there by sitting on your butt the entire time, you got there by working hard and doing all the things you need to do to prepare. People are going to be trying to take you away from that. So trying to manage ones time for me that has been the biggest key. Some guys they just show up and they try and practice just for the week and build themselves into it. I consider that total BS. I would much rather practice at home; be ready. When I go to an event it is to win, period. I learned that at a very early age, which is nice. How to practice; how to get ready for events. As I said, it has worked well for me. It might not work well for everyone.
SO: Well you’ve both got a long way to go in the game. It’s a pleasure having you both on Living Golf and let’s hope for many battles down the way as well.
TW: Yeah. You got it, thanks man