How TIME Landed Its Exclusive Interview With Tiger Woods

December 3, 2015

Tiger Woods covered some touchy subjects in his recent interview with Lorne Rubenstein for TIME, but the veteran golf journalist says it didn’t sour the mood.

“When we sat down, one of the first things he said was, ‘Let’s just have some fun,'” Rubenstein said of his Nov. 20 meeting with the 14-time major winner at his Jupiter, Fla., restaurant. “He was very relaxed. There was an equanimity about him. He didn’t seem melancholy or glum. Just reflective, almost philosophical.”

Over two-and-a-half hours, the pair covered everything from Woods’ 2010 divorce from Elin Nordegren to his recent breakup with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn to the litany of injuries that have derailed the late stages of Woods’ PGA Tour career.

“My biggest takeaway was that he really wants to play again,” Rubenstein said. “He wants to give it another shot, but he’s just not going to do it until he’s healthy, so I felt that there was a peace there about his career that wasn’t there before.”

SIGN UP: More golf news, exclusive stories and insider analysis

Woods has been notoriously reticent with the media throughout much of his career, but Rubenstein says the process of landing a rare interview with golf’s most complicated star was surprisingly simple. Woods is approaching a milestone birthday; he will turn 40 on Dec. 30. So Rubenstein figured that he might catch the golfer at a particularly contemplative moment.

“There’s been a lot of speculation about Tiger over the years because he hasn’t opened up, so I felt the best way to do this was to let him speak for himself,” Rubenstein said. “I approached his people, talked about it and went from there. It wasn’t much more complicated than that. From seeing him at majors and listening to him at press conferences, I always thought there was a reflective guy down there, but he was just a fairly shy person. I was glad he felt comfortable enough to open up.”

You can read Rubenstein’s interview here.