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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Tiger Woods talks Golf-Fu, legacy

By Jon Robinson



Telling 325-pound Shaquille O'Neal to perform a jumping spin kick is just asking for trouble.

But that's what happened during the recent filming of the viral video "Duel of the Masters" starring "The Big Aristotle" and Tiger Woods. Instead of a big boot captured by Kinect, Shaq mistakenly kicked the Microsoft camera, monitor and all and sent the entire screen smashing to the ground.

Now that's what I call Shaq-Fu.

"A couple of guys who were grand masters in Taekwondo came in and taught us some moves so we could look halfway decent in the video," Woods told me when I met up with him last week at a hotel in New York.

The results? One broken screen and an old-school sports and video game mash-up Tiger refers to as "Golf-Fu" that showcases the new, hands-free controls available in "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13" (Xbox 360). And with almost one million views to date, not even a size-22 shoe flying through a monitor can help slow down the viral video's momentum.

"The concept is that anybody can play," Woods said. "Shaq is 7-foot and he doesn't play golf, but he can play golf on Kinect. It was a challenge with him and I squaring off, and it captured the whole 'Enter the Dragon' feel. It was a lot of fun.

"Besides, I won. The big man went 'poof.'"

Jon Robinson: I've been playing through the new Tiger Legacy mode in the game, where I take control of you when you first pick up a golf club as a kid and play all the way through your entire career and even get a shot of you in the future. What's the mode like for you? It's almost like a digital version of "This is your Life."

Tiger Woods: It's going back in time for me, and it really brings back some great memories of playing in my backyard and practicing shots with my dog back there with me. Then it takes me through my junior golf days, my college stuff and then when I turned pro, which is probably more relevant to people because those moments were more televised. But to me, the amateur stuff and those junior golf days are priceless. That's where I learned how to play, and it's where a lot of my confidence comes from. A lot of the confidence I have now is because of all those wins I got as a kid.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
When Legacy Mode begins, you'll be hitting balls as toddler Tiger.
Jon Robinson: Did your backyard really look like it does in the game, where you were aiming shots at the sandbox and into nets?

Tiger Woods: What I used to do is I'd have these solid Wiffle balls and I'd try to hit them into these three planters that we had on the other side of the roof. So I'd be on the upslope in our backyard and I'd try to hit these balls so they would land just on the corner of the roof and roll down into the planters. I then trained my dog to go lay down next to each ball. So when I'd go over there, if my ball was in a bush or if it was in my mom's Thai pepper area, my dog would be right there waiting for me. He would watch me hit balls all day.



Jon Robinson: What was your dog's name?

Tiger Woods: Boom-Boom. (Laughs.) He had the loudest bark you've ever heard.

Jon Robinson: The next stage in your career in Legacy mode is the junior circuit. What was the toughest aspect of the game of golf for you to try to deal with at that early age?

Tiger Woods: For me at the time, I always played against kids who were older than me. They were taller, bigger, and they could hit the ball further than me, so at that age, while I didn't have the physical gifts, that is really where I learned my concentration, because I couldn't get away with anything. I had to compete in different ways. I had to become a better chipper and putter. I had to compete harder and be more focused than they did because I just couldn't hit the ball that far. But as I grew up and got taller and bigger, now I'm hitting the ball just as far as they were, only now I had the building blocks for success because I had acquired these other skills to help with my game.

It's like playing hoops in the park. If you play against adults when you're younger, then you learn how to dribble better, you learn how to shoot from outside, you learn how to penetrate and work your way into the lane. All these little things you learn to do better because if you don't step up and play better, you're going to get swatted. It's the same way with golf. If you play against older kids, you need to step up and figure out a different way to win.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
Playing against older kids forced Tiger to concentrate on chipping and putting.
Jon Robinson: Once you turn pro in the game, one of the first challenges is your first win at Augusta. What do you remember most about that tournament?

Tiger Woods: Back in 1997 at the Masters, that was a big moment for me, and to me that's still the biggest win I've ever had in my life. It was my first major win as a professional, and to win it, and winning it by breaking certain records at that event, is pretty neat. But the biggest reason this event stands out for me is remembering what my dad went through. My dad had a heart attack back in 1996 and had some big-time complications to where the doctor told him he couldn't travel. But my dad told him that he was going to the Masters to support his son.

And I remember I was really struggling with my putting at that time, but then my dad gave me a putting lesson on that Wednesday, then I went out and had the best putting week of my life. And so when you see me hug my dad at the end of 18 on Sunday, when you see the big bear hug, that's because it meant so much to us. It was everything he went through, what we went through, and all of those years together that led up to that moment encapsulated in one big hug.

Jon Robinson: One of the challenges I've been having fun trying is from 2005. They call it your greatest shot, and it's the chip-in from the 16th hole at Augusta. If you tried that shot 100 times, how many times do you think you make it?

Tiger Woods: One. (Laughs.) All I needed was that one time. At the time, I was playing Chris DiMarco, and I had a one-shot lead going into that hole. My whole strategy was to put my ball inside of his, so that if he makes his putt at least I have a par putt to be even going into the last two holes. I didn't want to give him the lead. I didn't want to give him a free run at taking over the tournament. I wanted to at least make him work for it. And if you remember, a few years prior to this, Davis Love had a chip similar to this, and he holed it, so I was like, "Hey, I know it can be done." So I tried to put the ball close, and in a magical moment everything just all came together. It was pretty cool to see all of the guys on the side of the green watching as the ball was creeping closer and closer. They started saying, "It's going in!" and that's when I perked up. They had a better angle than I did, then next thing I know the ball is hung up on the side of the cup. I was like, "I can't believe it's going to do this to me now," but then it fell.

Jon Robinson: Another challenge in the game is trying to duplicate the Tiger Slam. What sticks out in your mind most about that time period?

Tiger Woods: To win four majors in a row is certainly not easy. I started at the U.S. Open, then won the British and PGA. But then came the hardest part and the most exciting part, which is the Masters. The reason the Masters means so much to us as players is, 1) it's the first major of the year; 2) it's the only major that's played at the same venue. All of the other majors rotate places. And the buildup from the PGA, that ends in August, is almost an eight-month buildup by the time we get to the Masters. So everyone is talking about it as I win three in a row, and I had to answer those same questions every week. It was eight months of answering questions, and it got to the point where I just couldn't wait to finally tee it up. It ended up being a very special day, because you had the top three or four golfers all up at the top with a chance to win, and I happened to squeak it out.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
"Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13" puts you in Tiger's past, present and future.
Jon Robinson: With the new control scheme in the game, they even give you the ability to skip the ball across the water at the 16th hole of Augusta? I know you guys do it in practice, but have you ever tried to do this in a real tournament?

Tiger Woods: The fans are always out there on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and yelling at us to skip it. So we all take out our 3-irons and 4-irons and try to skip the ball across the water and onto the green. I remember playing No. 6 one year, and that's another par-3 just above 16, and we were up on the green and Vijay [Singh] was playing, and he not only skipped the ball across the water, he holed it. The whole place went nuts. It was like a Sunday roar where Jack Nicklaus just made a putt to win the Masters. So it can be done. You can hole it.

Jon Robinson: But have you ever tried it in a tournament?

Tiger Woods: I've tried it one time, but it was just because I had to. It was my only shot. This wasn't at the Masters, it was back in my junior golf days, and I was on the downslope, but I had no shot, I had no play unless I tried to skip it across the water. It didn't quite turn out how I wanted it, though. I did manage to skip it, and it did end up on dry land, but it ended up in a bunker in a pretty bad spot. I somewhat pulled it off.

Jon Robinson: The game not only features past and present Tiger, but future Tiger. What do you think of how they made you look in a few years?

Tiger Woods: I'm pretty wrinkly. And thank god I have my hat on because I'd have less hair. (Laughs.) But it's neat to see an older version of myself. You always wonder what you might end up looking like, and I think I aged well, at least in the game.

Jon Robinson: One of the future events they have in the game is in 2015, they have you tie Jack's record for most major championship victories. Is 2015 is a fair estimate of when you think you might pull this off?

Tiger Woods: I could technically tie it this year. It's one of those things that's going to take time, and it's one of those things that's going to take a career. For Jack to get to 18, it took him 20-plus years. I've been out here 17 years now, and I have 14 [majors], so I think I've done a pretty good job of it so far. The whole idea is to try to put myself there. We have another major coming up in a few weeks.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
Do you have what it takes to win the Tiger Slam?
Jon Robinson: You share the cover this year with Rickie Fowler [U.S.] and Rory McIlroy [Europe]. What do you think of how all of these young guns are now coming after you on the course, and on your box?



Tiger Woods: It's part of life. The new guys are coming, the new wave, and they're coming up strong. They're the new faces of golf, and it's neat that we gave it up to all of the consumers to pick who they wanted on the cover with me, and they chose those two. They are the next generation, and it's great to have them to not only be a part of the game, but be excited about being part of the game.

Take a guy like Rickie Fowler. He said he grew up playing video games as me. I remember watching old black-and-white footage of golfers, and then one day I was able to play against Jack, play against Arnold [Palmer] in a tournament. That was a thrill of a lifetime for me. This new generation, they play video games, and to have them a part of the game is really neat.

Jon Robinson: The game features Kinect controls for the first time this year. What element do you think it adds to the game that it was missing before?

Tiger Woods: The Kinect is incredible. It's a game-changer. We have 62-million shots that you're now able to do in the game. You can change your swing plane; you control your power output, aiming; and everything can be controlled with your body. Your body is the controller, and I think it's going to bring a different demographic to video game golf. Most of the people who play the game right now are gamers, and there's a whole generation who play the game of golf, but they don't know how to use the controllers. They just didn't grow up with that. But now I have guys at my club, and these guys are in their 50s and 60s who are grandparents now, and they're excited to play the game with their grandchildren. The Kinect brings actual athleticism into video games, and it's adding a whole new excitement level to the launch.