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Tiger talks sports: Woods on the time Muhammad Ali hit him, how he compares to Michael Jordan

April 26, 2020
Boxing great Muhammad Ali shakes hands with golfer


Like the rest of us, Tiger Woods is holed up at home, happy to kill some COVID-19 quarantine time by telling stories.

Our Henni Zuel caught up with Woods via video conference to talk about one of Tiger's favorite topics: sports, and not just golf. Woods told a number of fascinating stories that underline just how much inspiration he finds from his fellow sportsmen. For the full experience, watch the video below.

Here are some highlights:

On his second-favorite sport growing up, and how it helped his golf game: "Baseball. I loved playing baseball. My dad was a catcher, so naturally I was a pitcher...Baseball gave me the footwork and the leg strength to play golf. That's why my legs moved as much as they did, it's from playing baseball."

On a rather painful interaction with Muhammad Ali: "It was a practice round at Shinnecock, the year (Retief Goosen) won out there...I'm in line at the front desk, and I get hit in the ribs. My right ribs. And it hurt. And I whip around and think I'm gonna just keel all and hit somebody. I was so pissed. I look around, and it's Muhammad Ali. And he says, 'Hey, kid.' And I'm like, why did you have to give me a love tap so hard? He was old, but it still hurt.

On playing golf with Michael Jordan the day of a 1997 playoff game: "They were playing the Knicks in the ECF. I went up there and hung out with him for a few days. It was neat to be a part of...The mindset—I can relate to that. I can relate to the intensity."

On his upcoming match with Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady: "We've had banter back and forth, and it's been fantastic. But it's typical us, it's what we do. We like to give out the needle, and to give out the needle you gotta be able to take it. It's been fun, and it'll be like that when we play, when we compete. There will be banter back and forth, but it won't be as rough as what we have in our text exchange."

On the time he went incognito at a Raiders game: "I had to go with face paint. I had silver and black, and a Raider hoodie on. it was a little chilly that day, and no one recognized me, and I was just a fan like every one of them. We were screaming and yelling, having a great time."

On non-golfer athletes who might have a chance to play on Tour:"A PGA Tour player? I would say no one. But as a senior Tour player, I thought John Smoltz could do it, and I think he still can...The only other player that I think could really do it, and he just turned 40, is (Tony) Romo. I know it's 10 years away, but he has the speed, he has the game."

On whether he's ever known an athlete as competitive as him:"I would say 1A, 1B, myself and Michael. He's more, I think, outwardly competitive than I am. But I have my tendencies to be a little competitive at times."