By Sal Maiorana and Chad Roberts - Rochester D&C
PITTSFORD - Ten years ago, after Oak Hill Country Club had tamed him, Tiger Woods called the East Course "the toughest, fairest course I've ever played."
Based on what he's seen during his first few trips around the layout in advance of this week's PGA Championship, nothing has changed.
"This is a very difficult golf course," Woods said Tuesday afternoon during a 30-minute session with an overflow gathering of media. "I think that it's always been fair. It's just tough."
Woods, who shot 12-over-par 282 in the 2003 PGA to tie for 39th place, was concerned last week when he flew in for a quick practice round about the speed of the greens. But as he expected, the speed has been increased and he thinks they'll be perfect by Thursday's first round.
"The rough is up, fairways are perfect, greens are getting up to speed now," he said. "It's just a very difficult golf course. I mean, you have to hit the ball well here. When you look at the guys who have won here, they are all really good ball-strikers. It just puts a premium on hitting the ball in the fairway and hitting the ball on the greens, because there aren't a whole lot of opportunities out there to make birdie, but there's certainly a lot of opportunities to go the other way."
Woods' media session touched on several subjects, even on how as a parent, he will react if his own children show a great interest in golf -- or don't show a great interest.
After winning on Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Woods scooped up son, Charlie, to celebrate, showing a side of himself that the public rarely views.
"Whatever (Charlie) decides, he decides," Woods said. "If he decides to play golf, so be it. If he decides to play another sport or not play any sports, as long as he is happy and he enjoys his life, I'm there to support and guide him in his life, and that's what it is all about."
Woods alluded to the fact that his late father, Earl, carries the reputation somewhat as a show-business parent, forcing the game on Tiger, but Woods said that was not the case at all.
"I was in a different situation with my dad," he said. "People think that he pushed me into golf and it was the exact opposite. He was trying to get me to not play it. 'Go play baseball.' OK, I would go play baseball . . . I pitched. I can't wait to get out of this so I can go play golf. I would run track and cross country and I would run home fast to get to the golf course, those type of things."
Woods said that for him, golf was it from an early age.
"That was just my deal," Woods said. "I think the reason I did fall in love with it was because my dad kept it fun and light and I just enjoyed being out there. That's what I want to do with (daughter) Sam or Charlie. If they play golf, no lessons. We are just going to go out there and just have fun. Hit it around, laugh and needle each other. He's only 4 years old but he still gives me a little bit of grief, which is good stuff."
Woods was highly complimentary of Rochester and its golf fans, though there is one thing he might change.
"Well, I don't think you need to yell every time the ball gets airborne," he said to laughter.
"I played here as an amateur over at Monroe, the Monroe Invitational," Woods said. "I believe it is an old Donald Ross course. Man, it is a fantastic golf course. And obviously, playing here, this is all you want in a golf course. So this is a great golfing town. The communities come out. I was not part of the 1995 Ryder Cup, but seeing the atmosphere and how loud and how raucous everyone was, and experiencing here in 2003 and obviously the last two days so far this week, people are into it. People are into their sport up here, into golf, and it is a great community for golf."
Check out the specialPGA Section of the Rochester Democrat and Chroniclefor more information about the course, the players, and updates all week.