Tiger Woods is arguably the world's most famous athlete. He's won 56 tournaments in his eight-year career on the PGA tour, including eight major championships. “Today” show national correspondent Melissa Stark talked with Woods earlier this week, starting the interview by asking him how married life is.
Tiger Woods: Everything's been good. It's the same as always. Nothing's changed. It's still the same relationship.
Melissa Stark: How's her game?
Woods: It's getting better. She's playing when we're at home, just about every day.
Stark: What does she shoot?
Woods: I'd say in the mid-90s.
Stark: So, when's she going to start giving you tips on your game?
Woods: I don't know about that.
Stark: Spouses are allowed to do that.
Woods: I don't know about that.
Stark: I'm sure it'll be happening before you know it.
Woods: Yeah, probably.
Tiger and Elin Nordegren were married October 5th on the island of Barbados. It was a lavish yet intimate affair, and they tried desperately to keep it private.
Stark: How did [Elin] deal with all the attention?
Woods: It's one of the things she had to get used to, she didn't ask for it. Back in 2002, when we started getting pretty serious about it, that's one of the things we had to talk about. I said, “I'm sorry it has to be this way, but it kind of comes along with what I do.”
Stark: Did the paparazzi invade [the wedding]?
Woods: A little bit, they definitely try to take as many pictures as they can. It’s a shame that that's what the world has come to. That they don't quite understand how to respect anyone's privacy, and this is supposed to be an intimate moment between our family and friends. So that part of it I don't quite understand why. But the world has changed so much, and gossip sells.
He certainly has a good understanding of what sells these days. Tiger earns an estimated $11 million in endorsement money annually to help grow Nike’s golf brand, and Forbes magazine estimates he earn as much as $80 million a year.
Stark asked Woods about a recent Nike commercial shoot, when the director had a bright idea — he asked Tiger to hit the golf ball right at the camera. And Woods did, hitting it dead-on from 60 yards away.
Woods: They pulled the guys out and said you know, try and aim for the lens. And yeah, I aimed for it.
Stark: I wonder how much is coming out of your pocket for that one?
Woods: I hope I have insurance for that one.
One thing he hasn't been able to ensure is the No. 1 ranking. For the first time in five years he's not on top — leading to much speculation about his game.
Stark: You're sort of a victim of your own success?
Woods: I think so, a little bit. I had a great stretch for about five years [and] I guess people expect me to play at that level. But I was changing a few things this year — we're working on my swing a little bit.
Stark: How motivated are you to become the number one player in the world again?
Woods: Not as motivated as people might think. It's not the number one ranking that I want to grasp. I want to win, and winning takes care of number one.
Stark: You have won eight majors, you're 28. Jack Nicklaus was 30 when he won his eighth. How important is it for you to stay ahead of his pace?
Woods: It would be nice. In order to accomplish what he's been able to accomplish — being able to win that many major championships — you gotta have longevity. I'm in my prime right now.
Stark: You've become this celebrity that is known by only one name like Jordan or Ali. Is there a sense of responsibility that comes along with that?
Woods: I guess there is. But you get to do things that no one else gets to do, and I've been so lucky to be in this position. Granted, I fought it for a long time. I kind of still do fight the limelight part of it.
Stark: I read an interesting article recently where the author said you should run for president of the United States.
Woods: Yeah, I saw that.
Stark: And some top political strategists agreed.
Woods: No. No.
Stark: Tiger Woods for president, no?
Woods: I probably will have to become more political down the road when my playing days are done, because I'm going to have to have the support of others to grow my foundation. We're doing so many great things because of what I've been able to accomplish on the golf course. We've affected so many kids in a positive way.
Stark: Working with younger kids, why is that so important to you?
Woods: It's more gratifying than anything else. It's more gratifying than winning golf tournaments. I would much rather be remembered for that, for influencing kids, than winning the golf tournaments. I love winning golf tournaments for me, for my own personal satisfaction. But I tell you what, the satisfaction you get from helping others far outweighs that.