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MERRILL LYNCH SHOOTOUT MEDIA DAY
October 13, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, and welcome back to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort and to the Media Day for the 20th Anniversary of the Merrill Lynch Shootout. Quick note, Lee Patterson could not be here today, he had another commitment, but is still very much involved in the event and sends his regards and wanted me to remind you that the media credential application is due on November 28th.
But exciting day for all of us involved in the event. Media Day is always something we look forward to. We've got a tremendous field that we've announced today. Hopefully everyone has received the announcement throughout the room. If you haven't, just put a hand up and one of our staff will get that to you.
But very excited about the field. Would like to turn it over to Greg to make a few comments specific to the players that we're announcing, also touch a little bit maybe on this being an anniversary and what that means to you being the host and founder of the event.
GREG NORMAN: Thank you and good morning, everybody. Before we get to the Merrill Lynch Shootout. I want to send my thoughts to Seve Ballesteros. Some of you may not have heard about it or read about it. People have been in touch with me over the last 48 hours about him.
Just want to let him know from a player's perspective he was iconic in many ways. He actually, to me, was the Arnold Palmer of Europe. He was the Arnold Palmer of the '80s and '90s, and late '70s when I started playing with him. Had a tremendous amount of battles with him and friendships as well. So I just wanted to make known that my thoughts and prayers and best wishes for a strong recovery go out to him.
He's had a tough road the last couple of years, and he's been a fighter on the golf course. I'm sure he's going to fight his way through this one as well.
Back to the MLSO, Merrill Lynch Shootout. Obviously, the 20th Anniversary. Lot of people ask me the question did you ever imagine you'd be here 20 years after the first year you did it? And I would say, yes.
But to be in this situation or position with the Merrill Lynch Shootout the way it is today, I would say no. I would never have that vision to be able to say that. Because each year this tournament has seemed to grow in stature. Most of you know that in the comments I've made in the press conferences we've had over the years. It seems everybody tells me this year felt better than last year.
And that is the way, I think, in business you try to make sure that growth curve goes at the right trajectory, not too steep, not too shallow. Just at the right trajectory where every year you feel like it's a better year than the year before.
That's no different in 2008 to 2007 or going back 20 years ago. Twenty years ago we started with four players and now look at us. We've got a field of 160 tournament winners, nine majors, nine victories this year. We thought that we're in the position we are right now with the popularity through the players to me is a standing testament to what this event is all about.
The format has stood the test of time. No question the players love it, the sponsors love it, the galleries love it, and the media through you and NBC and previously CBS also loved the format.
So I'm very proud of the fact we're 20 years down the road and I'm looking forward to the next 20 years. I'm sure a lot of us will look a lot older than what we are right now 20 years from now, but as long as we're all sitting in the same press room 20 years from now it will be a great thing.
With that having been said, this year's field is, like I mentioned, very, very strong. And I want to thank the sponsors. Under the circumstances we all know, we all turn on the TV. We all see what's going on on a global basis which really started here in the United States. It's had a dramatic effect on every taxpayer in the United States and will continue to have a dramatic effect on every taxpayer in the United States, whether it's sponsorship dollars through the PGA TOUR, whether it's sponsorship dollars here at the Merrill Lynch Shootout.
We're all very intelligent people, and we'll figure out a way to make everything work. But with Merrill Lynch, I want to thank them for their commitment and their ongoing commitment toward. And we're going to make sure that the shootout and all the charities CureSearch and everybody reach their just rewards from the 2008 Merrill Lynch Shootout.
So with that having been said, let's throw it open to questions.
Q. A year has made a huge difference. You've had a fabulous wedding, married to a great gal. And this year in the British Open, you were holding your breath.
GREG NORMAN: I'm still holding my breath.
Q. It was unbelievable. But you sat in this room with us one year and talked about the thrill of carrying that Olympic torch. I've talked to Taylor about that. Take the wedding away for a minute. We don't want to compare that to the marriage. Which one?
GREG NORMAN: The torch or the British Open?
Q. The torch or the British Open?
GREG NORMAN: The torch.
GREG NORMAN: The torch because I'll never have another chance at carrying the torch. But I've always got another chance if I play well, practice well and get myself in the position to compete at the high level again.
In the British Open like that, that to me is like getting on my bike. Even though you're off your bike for a couple of years and been away from the game for a period of time, when you get back into the thick of things, internal mechanisms kick in and you actually let things go again. That's what happened to me at the British Open this year.
Obviously, a lot of things around me are being resolved and my life is a lot more content. I'm much more at peace with things. I've gone through a few years of turmoil. So all of a sudden now all I have to do is focus on what I want to do at that time. And that is play the game of golf, no baggage.
So once I got back into that arena, it felt pretty good. I carried it to the next week, I carried it to the next week and I haven't done it since because I haven't played, which is great. So my barometer for wanting to get back out and play is extremely high.
But will I get another invitation to carry the torch over the Sydney Harbor Bridge when the Olympics are in Sydney again? I'll be dead and buried because I don't think the Olympics will go back to Sydney for another 30, 40 years if it ever goes back there. So my chances of doing that again are nil. So that's why I took that one.
That event was very, very difficult to explain because unless you've been on the Sydney Harbor Bridge, unless you know Sydney, we had thousands upon thousands of people. And the bridge was moving up-and-down because people were running and jumping. You could feel the bridge swaying. You normally can feel it with traffic, but when you have people running it was oscillating like that, it was just an unbelievable experience.
Q. Can you talk about the field a little more with the Ryder Cup guys and you have Boo Weekley?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think we've really got 7 guys in the Ryder Cup, not six. But let me first of all congratulate Paul on that. I watched a little bit of it. Very impressed by the way he handled it as Captain, the way he balanced the personalities on his team as well as balancing the personalities of his team against those of Europe.
I think he kind of outsmarted the other captain because of that. It wasn't the number one player against the number one player over there. It was like the personalities against the personalities. A lot of times that bodes extremely well when you go up against somebody that you are like minded in a lot of ways, or somebody who is totally opposite to you.
So Paul did a tremendous job of that. I think the victory for the Ryder Cup for the USA was great for the game of golf, and obviously great for the Ryder Cup. It needed it.
I think it was good for Europe, too. Any time you dominate something you don't want to get a sense of complacency about you. I think at the end of the day golf was the benefactor. I think in the long run, I think the President's Cup will ultimately be a benefactor from it as well because of the stimulus among the President's Cup has a chance of beating the Ryder Cup team winner.
You can never beat the Europeans because you never play them. So from that standpoint looking out to 2009, that makes that event that much stronger as well.
So from the field, obviously, the balance of the Ryder Cup and on board now is just perfect for this event. These guys are playing together on a team, and now the Merrill Lynch Shootout format is very much team oriented anyways. So they'll get another flavor and a bit more laid back taste of the pre-President's Cup format.
Q. Did you take notes on what Paul was able to do for next year for yourself against Freddy?
GREG NORMAN: No, not really. I just watched what he did. Whether I pull any of that out and use it myself, I don't think so. I think we have our own styles in doing it. I'm not saying Nick did it wrong; I'm just saying the way Paul did it, he just did it a little bit differently than what I've seen in the past. It really stood out in my mind.
From my perspective, I'm just going to deal with it. I'll formulate a game plan as my team starts to gel about June and July of next year. I'll start thinking about structure and how to team these guys up.
It will be about communication with them, no question about it. One thing I've really enjoyed about Freddy since our press conference last week, is there is very much communication between him and I about where we want to take our captaincy of our respective teams. We kind of like want to make sure we're in sync together. Not one guy standing out more than the other. I think that's important to have a like-minded approach.
I've said we got handed the baton and now we've got to hand the baton on to the next captain whenever that will be, making sure the President's Cup is in a better position than when we received it. So to me, that's just talking, just communicating and making sure he's on the same wavelength as I am.
Q. Also regarding the field, the quality of it, are you trying to call in any favors on the anniversary? Are players wanting to stay home more this year just due to the climate, the global climate?
GREG NORMAN: Haven't had any feedback bad from the players. As a matter of fact we're getting calls from the players. Got calls yesterday about is the field finalized, am I in? Which is great.
I think the players -- I've always believed golfers are kind of recession proof. We get out there and we play, and we play for millions of dollars week-in and week-out. And no matter what the contractual obligations of whatever tournament they're with they go play.
Sure they probably feel the pinch at home, no question. At the same time we haven't felt any push back or any concerns from any players saying I can't come. It's quite the opposite, actually.
Q. Have you had any trouble with sponsorship with AIG? Is AIG still a committed sponsor?
GREG NORMAN: AIG is really undetermined. Obviously, we all watched the news and they are in a position, and they're the ones that determine that, not us.
So they from the Merrill Lynch Shootout and the Merrill Lynch people are business as usual and they are moving forward. We have a commitment with them up until 2010, so we're very happy with that involvement. WCI, they're being just masters to deal with here since 2001. We're with them until 2010. So it's business as usual.
Obviously, we all try to tighten up our shoelaces in some way, shape or form to help each other. At the end of the day the ultimate goal is to raise as much money as we can to CureSearch now and all the other charities we get involved with.
Q. Can you talk about the history? I know this is 20 years. You've had something that started this, was it Grand Cypress?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, it was really my first event was Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd and myself. It was just put three other guys together with me to raise money for Arnold Palmer's Children Hospital in Orlando. That carried on for a couple of years. Then we shifted out to California, and the tournament started to grow in stature.
So when I think back to those days when we had one group playing Grand Cypress, we had thousands of people out there. We raised a lot of money for Arnold Palmer's Hospital, and to think back-to-back then to where we are now, the atmosphere is still the same. People still enjoy it. The end result is we still give out a heck of an amount of money to charity.
Q. You have two spots left?
GREG NORMAN: Two spots left.
Q. Is there a timeline?
GREG NORMAN: In about 7 to 10 days we'll do it. We'll probably have the field finalized by the end of this month. Pairings down and everything.
Q. Was there a concern about the health of the event overall when the title sponsorship, the commitment from Merrill Lynch, when you found out that they were, I guess, being purchased?
GREG NORMAN: By B of A?
GREG NORMAN: No, because our agreement with them has been very, very strong. They've issued a statement. I'm sure, Taylor, have you read that statement?
THE MODERATOR: We can circulate it.
GREG NORMAN: We can circulate it if you want. The agreement and commitment from them is strong, vice versa, our agreement and commitment to them has been strong. They love the event. They love what it does for them. So they're just going to continue on business as usual.
Did we all sit back and think, okay, what's going to happen? We're just sitting there having a conversation about the PGA TOUR and what's going to happen.
So look at the big picture. Sure, there's going to be some going forward. Everybody's going to sit back and take a deep breath. No matter whether you're running a household account or running a PGA TOUR, everybody's got to take a deep breath.
Q. When you think back to the British Open, does the way that went down and the way you played affect the way you think you're going to approach the remainder of your career at all?
GREG NORMAN: Well, it will affect the way I picked up until April, because I wasn't expecting an invitation to Augusta. So that's dramatically changed my schedule, my workout schedule. I'm going to a few events up until April, so I'm going to try to put one event in a month.
If it wasn't in Augusta, I wouldn't be doing that at all. I'd be maybe playing one every four months getting ready for July like I did this year.
I'm still going to go back to focus on July like the British Open, Senior British Open and the Senior U.S. Open, and wrap it up in July again. So I've got a lot of tournaments to be determined on my schedule right now, and we'll see how it plays out up until then.
Q. Your thoughts on playing Augusta?
GREG NORMAN: None right now. I mean I'm going to practice with Freddy. My practice schedule will start first in November. I didn't want to start too early because I don't have the physical capabilities to hit balls every day until April.
So I will balance that out with the thought of getting to Augusta in the best tournament shape I can be in at the age of 54 then. So I will be working it hard and working it smart as I possibly can.
But I haven't played Augusta in April for five years or six years now. I played Augusta in January, went out there and spent a day with a friend and I. It was 34Â°, freezing cold, and the golf course was the longest golf course I've ever played in my life. But that was 34Â°, freezing cold, north wind.
So I'm looking forward to getting back out and trying to get there sometime throughout Thanksgiving, end of Thanksgiving just to see what the golf course is like under fairer conditions. Obviously, get up there like we normally do pre- Augusta back in the '80s and '90s. I'm looking forward to getting back. I'm looking forward to getting back, yeah.
Q. Can you talk about how much more fun you're having playing in general being with Chris? To whatever extent, perhaps, you've maybe lost a little bit of faith in your ability or be a top tier in recent years, has she helped bring some of that back? Maybe believe in your own self to be able to compete?
GREG NORMAN: Yes, to a degree. She's been a great asset in that regard. Because when you've been at the top of the heap, you know what it takes to get there. You also know what it's like when you've been at the bottom of the heap in relative terms.
So she encourages me to go out there and practice. She said actually yesterday on Sunday said to me, When are you going to start practicing? And I said, 1st of November. I'm telling my wife, and I said, I'll go back and start then. She said, I want you to get ready the best you can get ready for. So there is already the incentive put in place.
But that having been said, I think she's also allowed me to strip away a lot of stuff. There was a lot going on in my private world for a couple of years, pretty heavy baggage. You know, when all that gets taken away and you've got a clearer mindset about what you want to do and where you want to go. Even just on spending quiet time doing nothing to getting out there doing business, to getting ready for bed.
That's great to have somebody sit there who is willing to help you navigate wherever you want to go. She's been a great asset in that regard.
Q. The way you played this year, when you came back did you sense even a little more of that pride from people down here? Do you feel that's now extended to this event even more maybe than over the past few years it has?
GREG NORMAN: From July until now?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, absolutely. I think the feedback I get from people when I go to the shopping mall or go just walk down the street, or go to the movie theater like we did the other night. People are always making comments about what happened in July.
People commented in 1996 that I didn't do what I should have done. And they came up and said sorry to hear what happened, blah, blah, blah, but you did great. Now it's the other way. Hey, it's great to see what you did. You did wonders. You made the old people feel great. AARP is very happy. You know, my father is excited because now he's 55, and, you know, he wants to get on out there and do what Greg Norman did, you know, in whatever field they're in.
So I get that all the time, which is, I think, pretty darn good to tell you the truth. I enjoyed doing it, and I enjoy continuing on with it. Now it's my responsibility to make sure I continue on with my managed expectations. Not putting my expectations way out in front of me. Expecting something to be more than what it really is. So that's the hardest part of the situation right now.
Q. You know your partner for the event is going to be? Any chance it will be the President's Cup captain?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I can tell you my partner's going to be Camilo. I can tell that you. How about that? So I am the captain. He will be a member of my team.
GREG NORMAN: He can do whatever he wants to do. I'll just watch how he plays. We played in the Canadian Skins game together. That was the first time we played together. We got on very, very well together.
So we just, even before he did his double victories, I called him up and we talked about it. He said he'd won the first one. He did it in the second one. We talked about it, and he loved the idea, so that's my -- they're kicking me under the table now.
No, that will be good because it helps me in a lot of ways. He's young, he's dynamic, you know, he's full of energy. I did think about Freddy. There was a lot of communication about that, and talked about balancing out what would be great to see that happen and how would that play out. But I just thought at the end of the day looking forward this is probably the best thing for me.
Q. Is there anyone after looking back at the British in the final round to be that close again?
GREG NORMAN: No, there really wasn't. The only thing that I felt I had to check myself when I walked to the first tee. If you were there, it was just an 80-, 90-yard walk through a sea of people screaming. It was really hard.
Normally when you're in that moment all the time week-in and week-out you don't feel it. It's there, but you don't let it get to you. When I walked to the tee, I actually had to check myself. I had to say, okay, get yourself back in here. Don't get swept up in all of this, because it was pretty heavy. It was heavy, it wasn't that heavy, but people were just so excited about it.
So it became instead of letting things happen, I started to think about how things should happen. You can't think about how things should happen in golf. When you're in the groove, you've got to just go out there and play your normal mental processes basically. And it was just a little different.
I started to feel it, the adjustment of picking it up on the 4th or 5th hole. That's when I started playing a little bit better. It was hard to stop the extent of it. When I got back at the end of the turn, I thought I was going to be in shape to keep it going. But Padraig just played phenomenal the last several holes.
Q. When you had your shoulder surgery you talked about getting back into the mind of a winner. I've got to get back into winning. In the British Open, what could you do to get into that mode?
GREG NORMAN: Well, you don't let anything on the outside affect what you're doing. You never let the moment affect what you're doing. A winner has a great ability to stay so much in the present that you just get the job done.
The first round of the British Open, I knew probably the 3rd or 4th hole that I was playing very well. Why that was because in two years I hadn't practiced on or played or done anything. I don't know why.
Walking up to the 5th tee, I just felt like we're going to be okay this week. Let's just play one shot at a time and just stay in the moment. Every step was like walking to the first tee. I had to pull myself back into the moment and not even let anything get into you. I think that's part of what people have to do.
Like I said, it's like riding a bike. Once you remember how to do it, it can come flooding back pretty quickly.
Q. Can you talk about Rocco being in the field next year? I know you said some things to him after?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I've been a huge fan of Rocco's for a long period of time now. He's brought something to the game of golf few people can. What he did at the U.S. Open with Tiger, he proved to everybody that you don't have to be technically correct and you don't have to be technically great, you don't have to be this. You can just be a solid, solid person and chase your dreams and go in there with a good attitude, and go in there with the expectation that you can manage within yourself and enjoy yourself. Look what happens.
I think a lot of times maybe some of the players nowadays when they get up against Tiger, they feel like they're up against Tiger. Rocco went out there, and he was up against the golf course. He played Torrey Pines, and he played Torrey Pines well. And Tiger was the one who had to change his game because Rocco wasn't going to change his game for Tiger.
. At the end of the day Tiger did a great job under the circumstances with the injury and everything else to pull that one off. Especially when you've got somebody who is equally a crowd favorite as what Tiger was, so crowds support their players.
I think he did the game of golf a world of good. I think he did the PGA a world of good. I think he did a lot of the younger generation and players on the PGA tournament and around the world a lot of good. They can sit back and take note on what happened there.
Q. Have you tried to talk to Annika at all about her retirement?
GREG NORMAN: We did. I've spoken to her about this event. She had a conflict, obviously, with the Dubai Tournament, the Dubai Ladies Masters. She's going to be, like I said, she's going to be sorely missed. What she's done for the game of golf, ladies golf, golf in general. You can't measure it. She's elevated it.
The LPGA is in a position it hasn't been in for a long period of time. That's basically what Annika's done. So, yes. We offered, we'd like to have her here, but we respect the fact that she's got plenty of better offers and places to go.
End of FastScripts