Tiger Woods talks record, McIlroy, team and fans at Ryder Cup

Since turning pro in 1996, Tiger Woods has played in all but one Ryder Cup. Heading into this week, his seventh Cup, Tiger carries a career record 13-14-2, despite a strong 4-1-1 mark in Sunday singles. On Wednesday, he spoke to the press at Medinah, a course where he's won two PGA Championships. TAKING SOME BLAME Q.  Wonder if you can speak kind of in general terms about this core of you and Jim and Phil that have played on, or at least qualified on every team since '97, effectively. And secondly, it's kind of a chicken-and-egg type thing; none of you guys have winning records. Is it because you've been on losing teams, or have you been on losing teams because you don't have winning records?TIGER WOODS:  I think it's both.  In order to win Cups, you have to earn points and we certainly have not earned points. And on top of that, I think that Phil, Jim and myself have been put out there a lot during those years. So if we are not earning points, it's tough to have -- hard to win Ryder Cups that way. Q.  In a decade in which you dominated this sport and you look up here and you see Europe, Europe, Europe winning, how does that make you feel, and do you sort of bear any personal responsibility for that, and does it provide you some motivation this week to try and reverse that trend?TIGER WOODS:  Well, certainly I am responsible for that, because I didn't earn the points that I was put out there for.  I believe I was out there, what, in five sessions each time, and I didn't go 5-0 on our side.  So I certainly am a part of that, and that's part of being a team.  I needed to go get my points for my team, and I didn't do that. Hopefully I can do that this week, and hopefully the other guys can do the same and we can get this thing rolling. ON RORY MCILROY Q. In the last week both Jim Furyk and Paul Azinger have said they think Rory McIlroy is a marked man this week because he's world No. 1 and beating him is worth more than a point psychologically. From your experience at The Ryder Cup, what is it like to be targeted in such a way and how do you think Rory will handle it? TIGER WOODS: It's part of being consistent. It's part of being ranked No. 1. It's part of winning major championships. You're always going to want to try and take out their best player, and that's just part of the deal. That's a fun challenge.
I certainly have relished it over the years and I'm sure he's going to relish it this week. Q. With your good relationship with Rory, have you offered him any advice on what to expect this week or what it's going to be like for him? TIGER WOODS: Well, I'm not going to say anything; obviously he's playing for the other team. We can talk about it afterwards (smiling). ON THE TEAM
Comments on hopes for this week?  Getting together with the team last night to get things started?
WOODS:  Yeah, it was fun.  We have a great mix of guys this year, and it's going to be just a lot of fun.
You know, some of the guys have obviously been on teams before.  Some haven't.  But it was a great team atmosphere last night, and we are going to have a lot of fun this week. The core of you, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson have played on, or at least qualified, for every team since '97. Hard to believe you guys have been together that long? WOODS:  Yeah, it is.  It's amazing how close this core is.  We have gotten to know each other‑‑ not just in The Ryder Cup, but we play team Cups every year with The Presidents Cup, and it's been the same three guys, and for a very long time.  Phil has obviously been the longest, since '95.  It's been a long time, and we certainly have had our experiences.  We can certainly help out a lot of the guys who have never been there before. In team sports, they always talk about it's the name on the front of the jersey and not the back of the jersey; how did you make the transition from being an individual competing for yourself to being a part of a team and playing for pride and not pay? WOODS:  Yeah, it's great.  This is very similar to what we did in college.  We played for our university at the time.  But for us to represent the United States of America and our teammates, it's something else.  When you've got‑‑ when it gets to a certain point, either Friday afternoon, late in the evening, or Saturday late in the evening, and all the teams are gathered and there's like one group out there, and if you happen to be in that group, it's interesting.
It's so much heat on you, which is very different.  It's different than playing by yourself.  But playing for teammates, it just adds an element that‑‑ it means so much more because it is our country, and it is our teammates, and we want to‑‑ in all these practice sessions, get to know each other and get our games right and be ready for The Ryder Cup week.  It comes down to one moment. ON CHICAGO CROWDS
You've experienced some pretty fiery Ryder Cup atmospheres over the years.  What sort of atmosphere can the European players expect here in Chicago and how much of a lift can that give the American Team?
WOODS:  It will certainly be partisan, there's no doubt about it.  It will be loud (smiling).  It will be raucous, and it will be fun. It's the same as when we go to Europe.  They get into it for their team, and our fans are going to get into it for our team.
You know, our sport is such that we don't have home and away matches every time we tee it up.  It's not like most sports.  it only happens for the Americans basically every year or the Europeans every other year, home and away. So it's a lot of fun. What are you expecting from the crowds here?  Anything specifically from the Chicago sports fans?  People here are very excited about it.  The Chicago sports fans will be in attendance? WOODS:  This is a great sporting town, to begin with, and they obviously have supported the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks, you name it.  They just love sport, period.
And for us to come in here and be part of a U.S. Team I think is just going to add to that.  We are going to have a great atmosphere here, and it's going to be a lot of fun.  I think it's going to be fun for both sides.  As I said, it will be bviously in our favor, just like it is when we go over to Europe.  But, hey, it's part of the deal.  And you go out there and you play and you execute and you try and win points for your team, and hopefully we can get the Cup. SPEAKING OF CHICAGO…
We hear about the influence Michael Jordan has in the team room.  How much of an influence does he have on you and is there any back story about the first time you met him?  Were you nervous around him the way some people are around you at first?
WOODS:  Well, the first time I had ever been around him, he had fed me some beverages (laughter) and the next day was a little bit more difficult than I would like it to be.  But I still shot some really good numbers that day, and made an eagle on the last hole to win.  So that certainly feels good. But you know, Michael being who he has been in the sport and what he's done, for him to b want to be part of this, is special for us. This is one of the greatest athletes to ever live, and you know, he wants to be a part of golf and be a part of and share with us what he's been through.  For us, that's incredible.
I think it's hilarious to see him in a cart like in' 97, riding around in the back of a cart, because you don't see guys who are 6'6" out here very often.  But to have, as I said, to have him be a part of this, it's priceless for a lot of these guys.  I guess for me, because I consider him like my big brother, gotten to know him so well over the years, I may take that for granted.  But some of the other guys who don't really know Michael, I think it's a real treat for them. Read the rest of Tiger Woods's press conference at ASAP Sports.

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by Kevin Cunningham