GREG McLAUGHLIN: Thank you all for joining us on today's call. We're looking forward to another great Northwestern Mutual World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club, Dec. 2- 8. We're thrilled to return to Sherwood for what will be our 14th championship at Sherwood and 15th this year. Let me open up by asking Conrad York with Northwestern Mutual to say a couple things.
CONRAD YORK: It's an honor and pleasure to be here today. On behalf of our 5,000 employees and 7,000 financial advisors, I want to say how proud we are to assume this title sponsorship of this world-class event to continue our partnership with the Tiger Woods Foundation. To get everyone orientated, just a word about our company. Northwestern Mutual is 156 years old. Our business is to help clients achieve financial security. We're proud of our record of consistent and dependable performance. We also share a common goal with the Tiger Woods Foundation, which is to help secure the education, health and development of young people so they experience better tomorrows. As an example, over the last five years the Northwestern Mutual Foundation has contributed over $25 million to educational institutions and organizations. I'm not sure how many have had a chance to visit the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim or Washington, D.C., but if you do, you really get a chance to see the work that's being done. I recommend it to all of you. Finally, we believe the work of the Tiger Woods Foundation will continue to impact many future generations. That's really why this event is so important. We look forward to a great golf tournament.
GREG McLAUGHLIN: Thanks, Conrad. Before I turn it over to Tiger, I just wanted to touch base on a couple things that we're very proud of. Since inception, this event has raised more than $25 million for the Tiger Woods Foundation, local charities in Southern California. To date our Tiger Woods Learning Centers have reached more than 100,000 young people. Our Earl Woods Scholarship Program has reached nearly 100 scholars attending major universities across the United States. So we're very proud of that, proud of what this event has been able to really grow. Turning your attention to our field, we're very excited about this year's competition and feel we have one of the strongest and deepest fields that we've had in a long time. Our 2012 champion, Graeme McDowell, will be defending after having won the event two times. We also have former champions Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods with us, as well as nine players from the most recent Presidents Cup. We also have, in addition to that, one first timer, Ernie Els. We're pleased to have, again, what's been maybe our strongest field since inception. You see the list of the other players. There's two exemptions which we haven't announced yet and probably will within the next few weeks. With that, I'll turn it over to Tiger to make some remarks and then we'll open it up to questions.
TIGER WOODS: We're very excited here at the Foundation on our 15th annual World Challenge now with Northwestern Mutual as our title sponsor. It's going to be a fantastic week. As Greg was alluding to earlier, it's our deepest and strongest field that we've had possibly ever. It's going to be a great week, one that everyone is going to enjoy. Really looking forward to it.
GREG McLAUGHLIN: With that, we'll go to questions.
Q: Tiger, the USGA is holding a symposium next month, a think tank, if you will, that discusses slow play. I was wondering if you were speaking at it, what is the one thing you would try to emphasize in terms of fixing this problem?
TIGER WOODS: Play faster (laughter).
Q: How? Where does it start?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's grassroots. People just quite aren't educated about pace of play. I think even in public golf courses all the way up to our TOUR events, the play has gotten slower over the years. It's one of those things where I don't know, at our level, the TOUR level, it's easy to fix: just start fining guys. At the local level, it's a little more difficult, more complicated.
Q: Five and a half hour rounds at Frys on Saturday.
TIGER WOODS: Anytime you have threesomes you're going to add close to another hour in playing time. Especially if it's a two tee start, it's definitely going to take a lot longer. We found out this year at Akron we played in twosomes the first two days, we basically flew around there. I think the slowest time was right around four hours. I think that was the slowest group. We had that weather and had to go early in threesomes off two tees on Saturday. We were up around the 5:20 mark.
Q: Speaking of the Frys, that's the new kickoff to this wrap-around schedule. Do you think that will make a difference in players' schedules? Will it make a difference in yours?
TIGER WOODS: I think for me I'm still wrapping my head around it. Some of the players were talking about that at The Presidents Cup. It's hard to believe the very next week is a TOUR event. We felt like we were still playing our season because we were still playing The Presidents Cup. I think it's going to take a little bit of time to get accustomed to it. I know some of the guys in their local areas are playing, guys that live down in Sea Island, some of the guys based in Cali, some guys are going overseas to play. I think we're still trying to get our minds wrapped around it. I think it's going to take a little bit of time getting used to.
Q: Do you think it will affect the West Coast swing at all?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know if it's going to affect the West Coast swing or not. It's so new, very similar to what we were experiencing in the first couple years of the FedExCup. It was all new to us. We were trying to understand and get a feel for it. I think over time, as time goes on, we'll certainly get a good handle over it. But we've never had a wrap-around schedule before. It's always been calendar years. This is something that's very different to us in our sport. Other sports it's the norm. Baseball and football, it's the norm. For us in golf, this is certainly very different.
Q: Tiger, what do you hope to get out of the few remaining tournaments you have yet to play this year? Can you talk about, is there a part of your game if you look back on '13 what you might attack with your preparation going into next year?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm playing two events coming up. I have a tournament in Turkey and obviously our event there at Sherwood. Basically, I just want to continue to work on the things that we were working on this summer. I felt like toward the end of the year, even though I was a little bit dinged up at the end of the year, I was doing some really positive things. To have a five win season, I've done some pretty positive things to accomplish that. Again, shore up some of these things, then head off to hopefully next year with some good positive momentum. As far as some of the things I'd like to get better at, that's obviously peaking at the right times and getting the four big events next year that I'd like to win. Hopefully, I can do that.
Q: Do you look at stats, gather a team around you, like others do?
TIGER WOODS: I don't. I never have. The coaches I've had in the past, they've done that a little bit. Sean does that. We'll talk about it, but I don't go on there and look at the stats. I kind of already know what I need to work on. But sometimes there might be a glaring stat, and Sean may point that out to me.
Q: Speaking of your tournament, given that you talked about the wrap-around season, no FedExCup points at your tournament, are you surprised you got as strong a field as you did?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I think we're all very surprised that we've got as many international players playing this year. The American players have supported our event throughout the years. Obviously, it's easier travel if you're based in the States. The guys who are playing in the Race to Dubai, it's a bit more of a challenge to try to get them to play. But for some reason this year we've had guys wanting to play and have probably the best field we've had.
Q: Why do you think they want to play?
TIGER WOODS: I think word has spread. We've always treated players well there. They've had a great time. It's close enough to the following year where some of the guys want to try and experiment with a few things equipment wise, club deal wise. They want to get a tournament in before they play Kapalua, the Hawaiian Open. Some of the guys have done that in the past. Otherwise, as I said, we've had great American support, but it's pretty incredible to get the international support we've gotten this year.
Q: Nicklaus said something to the effect of the number of great young players is larger now than at any point in the PGA TOUR history. What makes these youngsters, 20 to 28, different from 10 years ago?
TIGER WOODS: It's very simple: a lot of the guys are now more athletic, they're training at an earlier age. They're bigger, stronger, faster, just like in all sports. Golf has now caught up with that. We're getting kids that are much more athletic playing golf at an earlier age. We're seeing that with some of the guys in their early 20s playing as well as they are, and how far they can hit it. Guys haven't always trained. This is a new generation where guys are training at an earlier age and they're stronger, faster and more athletic.
Q: I was wondering how your back is doing. You were talking about it at The Presidents Cup. Are we talking about your lower back? Do you expect it to be better before you get to Sherwood?
TIGER WOODS: My back feels great. I took a week off. I've trained this week. I've gotten a bunch of treatment. I just did a clinic out here and felt fantastic. It's just about doing all the mundane things, the little rehab treatments. Sometimes it can be mundane but they work over time.
Q: Tiger, the wrap-around schedule. Didn't seem that long ago that you and Phil and some other prominent players were sort of advocating a shorter season that came to fruition with the FedExCup and THE TOUR Championship ending in September. Now six, seven years later we've gone to this. Did they ever ask you about it personally? You seem sort of lukewarm to the idea of starting up so soon.
TIGER WOODS: The whole idea of ending the season earlier was to give us a bigger break. Guys were taking their breaks basically in October and sometimes even into November, then going down to either South Africa or Australia and playing those events in December. You had a month or two off where guys would take their breaks because of the FedExCup ending earlier at the end of September, then guys would go support their home countries either in South Africa, Australia, or the American players would go down there to play to get ready for the following year. It's going to be interesting to find our break time now with this scheduling. It's new to all of us, this wrap-around schedule. As I was alluding to earlier, basketball and football, that's the norm for them. For us, this has never been the norm. This is new to us.
Q: With your tournament there, obviously it's very important to you personally. You and your dad got it started all those years ago. Could you talk from your standpoint about the challenges today of trying to raise money for a worthy cause. I'm guessing it's not that easy.
TIGER WOODS: It's been one of those times unfortunately for a lot of charities where it's a tough economic climate right now for anyone to try and raise money. Luckily, our Foundation really got going with this event, some of our other events that we run. We were in that boom. I think we've got a lot of awareness and equity built in through all those years. I think that's why we're still able to raise the money that we're able to raise, just because people are aware of it and they understand what we're trying to do and the message is already out there. If you're trying to start a foundation now in this economic climate, it's a totally different challenge to try to get the awareness out there. I think over the 15 years of equity of doing this, running this event, other events, it certainly helps.
Q: Tiger, you hear the question all the time about whether you'll pass Jack's all-time major record someday. Getting asked such a speculative question over and over, does it amuse you, does it annoy you when you get asked?
TIGER WOODS: No comment (laughter). It's one of those things where I've been asked that a lot over the course of my career. I've been out here for the better part of 17 years. I've been asked that quite a few times. I don't think that's going to change. So far over the course of my career I think I've done a pretty good job of what I've been able to win over the years. My career's not done yet. I'm still playing, and I think I'm playing at a high level.
Q: Can you separate yourself from it and look at it solely as a sportsfans and understand the public's fascination with that question?
TIGER WOODS: I'd probably be the wrong person to ask because I'm part of that question. I'm actually in the question. It's one of those things where I think I'm still playing, I'm still active, I'm still competing at a very high level. But the wins fall where they fall. After it's all said and done, you can look back and have a better picture of it.
Q: Drawing the distinction between tournament and recreational golf. When you get together at The Medalist in a threesome or foursome, how long does it take you to get around 18 holes?
TIGER WOODS: Thirty-six holes usually takes us under three and a half hours, so...
Q: And your record, your time, by yourself?
TIGER WOODS: By myself? I've played under an hour 18 holes, no problem. It helps having a fast cart.
Q: Rory is playing in your tournament this year. He's had a tumultuous year on and off the course. What do you make of it?
TIGER WOODS: I think he's had a lot of change not only in his game, but off-the-course management, sponsorships. He's had a lot of things going on this year. He hasn't played as well as he has in prior years, but he's still ranked pretty high. I think he's either fifth or sixth in the world. A lot of guys don't even get that high. I think give him a little bit more time, I think he's starting to put the pieces together, starting to play a little bit more. He showed some really good signs towards the end of the season that the things he's working on are starting to come together.
Q: How often do you get back to the Learning Center in Anaheim to check up on things?
TIGER WOODS: I drop in every now and again. I'm not in California very often anymore just because of my kids are in school in Florida. When I'm out in the area, I will definitely swing by and check out the Learning Center, see how the kids are doing. Certainly not as much as I used to when I didn't have kids that were based in Florida.
Q: How much impact does one event at Sherwood affect your funding?
TIGER WOODS: This was our main event that basically got us on the map, was our main fundraiser. We had the Tiger Jam in Vegas, but this is where the awareness really came from. Running our own golf event with the players that we've had supporting the event, them experiencing and understanding what we're trying to do for kids, has grown exponentially. As I said, the brand equity we've developed over the last 15 years has been just absolutely amazing. I think it's something we're very proud of. The kids who have gone through the program, I think they can say it best in what they've done with their lives, how it's transformed their lives from not having an opportunity to now be given an opportunity and have them run with it. Some of the universities that these kids are going to because of the Earl Woods Scholarship Program is just phenomenal to see.
GREG McLAUGHLIN: I want to thank all the members of the media for questions, for joining us today, certainly for your coverage of the event. Thank you, Conrad, for joining us as well, Northwestern Mutual, title sponsor. Look forward to seeing everyone out at Sherwood Country Club, Dec. 2-8. Thank you all again.