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September 19, 2011

Greg Norman

LAURA HILL: Welcome, everybody, in the States as well as down in Australia. We are pleased to have 2011 international Presidents Cup team captain Greg Norman joining us this morning by phone.
It was a busy weekend with both teams coming together, and I know Greg has some comments about his team in particular. Obviously let me just take a moment to run quickly down roster for those of you who may not have had a chance to see the Top-10 on the International Team are Jason Day, Adam Scott, Charles Schwartzel, K.J. Choi, CT Kim, Retief Goosen, Geoff Ogilvy, Ernie Els, Y.E. Yang, and Ryo Ishikawa. The two captain's picks Greg will name on September 27, just about a week from now.
Greg that's a pretty good roster, like the American Team, quite a few veterans with three guys who will be making their Presidents Cup debut in a couple of weeks down in Australia. So if we could just get your comments on the teams coming together, and obviously Geoff Ogilvy doing a big story yesterday securing his spot to return to Royal Melbourne.
GREG NORMAN: Good morning, everybody, first. There's no question about it, that Geoff Ogilvy's move was a big, positive move for me as the captain. He took a lot of pressure off me in a lot of ways. Mainly because he knows Royal Melbourne very, very well. I had a conversation with him about two weeks ago leading up to the last couple of events and I just said to him, "Geoff, I want you on the team, and how are you feeling."
He said, "Look, it's the first time in a while I started feeling great." He's had a couple of health issues this year as we all know, and his golf game is coming around and obviously his performance last week was a great indicator of that.
The end of the day, Geoff knows Royal Melbourne extremely well. He has a house maybe 400 yards from the driving range. So I said to him on the phone, "Geoff, you know, if there's any one person that knows Royal Melbourne better than you, and that's me. I need you on this team. Just go out there and just play and don't even worry about the team, just focus on your performance on the golf course." And he did it. I was very, very proud of him.
I don't know whether he's going to join this call or not this morning, but if he does, that would be fantastic. My team overall, extremely balanced team. I like the experience that we have, some of the players there who have played extremely well all year, and I look at the performance of the players for the last three or four months, not over the last two years. To me, leading up to The Presidents Cup, if somebody is in great form, which it seems to me most of my guys are right now, they are not going to lose that form in the next -- before November.
So I like my team the way they are playing on a consistent basis. When I look at the great movers, since January 1, 2011, to where we are here today, speaking, look just what K.J. Choi has done and Y.E. Yang have done, they have really moved themselves up in a tremendous fashion and the team has played -- these ten guys have played consistently well all this year.
So I like it. It's a great balanced team. Obviously as captain, we have got guys who have the experience before and guys who have played one or two tournaments, Presidents Cup, before, and the experience is there.
So it's going to be a tough battle. When I look at the U.S. Team, obviously you take rookies into consideration, but rookies are rookies and these guys are great players. The one thing that might be a bit of a tough hurdle for them is not knowing Royal Melbourne. There are a few members of the U.S. Team that have played Royal Melbourne but at the end of the day, Royal Melbourne is a course that needs to be known how to play, and so that might be a bit of an advantage because of the number of rookies on the team.
But the U.S. Team is extremely strong, there's no question about it. They have all played very, very well. To see Jim Furyk fight his way back on to the team was a big effort. At the end of the day, my International Team is great. Tim Clark and Frank Nobilo had a great conference call recently, discussions about the final two picks, so we are all excited about it.
Quite honestly behind the scenes, Adam Scott has been tremendously the team leader out on TOUR, exciting the guys, talking to the guys. He's been extremely positive about the road to Royal Melbourne and the road to Presidents Cup this year and spurring the International Team onto a victory.

Q. I was just wondering, you mentioned Adam Scott has been a cheerleader for The Presidents Cup, is that something that you asked him to do or is it something he just sort of did off his own back and took that initiative?
GREG NORMAN: I think he took the initiative himself. I know he was very, very excited about getting on the team in 2009. He was excited for that. Ever since then, after the team losing, we knew that year in 2009, the team played very, very well; the U.S. was really pedestalled by the likes of Stricker and Woods and Mickelson. Those three guys just won so many points between the three players that they carried the U.S. Team to victory.
We all knew that our team was playing extremely well, and Adam was so excited being on the team, and that excitement has led all the way up to this point now.
And I know he stayed with me and I know we have had a lot of conversation, and he just talks about it a lot. I know that's what he's doing out there on the TOUR, as well. I'm extremely happy that he's taken that initiative. I didn't ask him to do it.

Q. You've got a couple of picks in a week's time, and as you just mentioned, the experience on Royal Melbourne is so important, but yet you've got a couple of guys sitting out there who seemingly have that, especially Allenby. I just wonder, you know, what you're thinking, with a week to go to make that decision, is it going to be an easy call, or do you have a lot to ponder here?
GREG NORMAN: I don't think it's going to be a hard call to tell you the truth. I think at the end of the day, it's just talking to my guys. Like I said in my opening statement, I look at the performance of players leading up to where we are here today or leading up to the point where I have to pick the final two.
If I see or hear of a player, because I'll be speaking to them more, if I hear them saying, they are playing well, they are playing well, they are playing well, some of the golf courses they have played of late may not have suited their eye or their game and therefore is not indicative of their playability.
I'll be looking at their scores. I'll be looking at the consistency of how they have played. If you see a guy shooting 68, 69, 76, 77, 79, 75, you go, okay, his consistency is not there. But if you see a player shooting 68, 69, 68, 70, 71, 72, 68, 69, then I know the guy is playing well on a consistent basis. Even though he's not winning and not making enough points to get on the team, he's playing consistently well. I take that into consideration in a big way. I can go all the way down.
Just watched Richard Green a couple of weeks ago play extremely well and I know Richard knows Royal Melbourne very well, as well. You see that and find out Richard has done pretty good head-to-head match-play record, so when you go all the way down to number 20, I've got a great opportunity.
John Senden, look what he did yesterday. His performances of late over the last 90 days have been just fairly consistent all the way through.
And obviously Robert Allenby, he's a Royal Melbourne lover. He plays that golf course extremely well because of the way the golf course plays.
And then I like what Vijay Singh is doing, even though he played fairly poorly last week, he's got some issues with his back that seem like they have cleared up very, very well. He's played consistently well.
So you know, I say it's going to be a fairly easy decision, but at the same time, I take all of those things into consideration and it allows me to -- and obviously in collaboration with Frank and Tim, it's not going to be a hard choice for us really at the end of the day.

Q. Are there any obvious pairings now that you've selected the side?
GREG NORMAN: I think so. I definitely think so. I think that's one thing that I'll be honest with you that Adam Scott has been coming back to me in the last couple of weeks. He said, "Greg, there's a lot of logical pairings out there. I see it, I see the way the guys are playing, I see the way the guys are with each other."
And I said, "Yeah, I agree with you, Adam. I don't know which ones you're talking about."
Adam wants to speak to me later this week, because obviously we need to get the Top-10 rounded out, and the same with Frank and Tim. We all see it. We all see the natural fit of the way these players have been playing, and their personalities.

Q. Peter Thomson said after the International Team's victory in 1998 that it was the greatest moment, most important moment in the history of Australian golf. Do you agree with that?
GREG NORMAN: Well, at the time I would have to say that. Because there was a lot of -- there was a huge buildup to the -- when was it, 1998 Presidents Cup. There was a huge build up to it. We were talking about it. The players were dying to go outside of U.S. soil and we wanted to feel a hometown advantage. Golf is very, very strong in Australia. It's supported very, very strongly by the public and the media and also by sponsorship.
Yeah, leading into it, we knew we were coming in as the underdogs and we wanted to putt our best foot forward. As the week went by, the build up even from Wednesday to the Sunday, in particular, was huge. And Friday night I can remember very, very well that we all knew if we could make a statement Saturday morning, it was going to make Sunday a little bit easier for us. Because you want to be able to tuck the tournament away the best you can, as quickly as you can, and we did that, and allowed us to create a lot of team spirit.
That's probably the underlying factor: We had the team spirit. Everybody was really pushing and promoting and there was no individual in that team. It was an entire team. So obviously when we won it, and the way we won it, convincingly, it was a big thing.
So at that time, there's no question about it. The accolades that came our way; I think what it did for The Presidents Cup was huge, and I think a victory now in November this year will also be huge for The Presidents Cup if the International Team did it. It's not going to be easy. I think it's going to be a tougher battle this year, no question about it. But that having been said, I think the guys are probably as inspired as what we were leading into 1998.

Q. Obviously there's no problem getting guys fired up for a team event, but what do you do when a player has a bad start and he's feeling down on himself and he's let the team down, what do you do as captain, and do you have any specific examples going back to San Francisco or other Presidents Cups?
GREG NORMAN: I think the individual -- it depends on how the individual takes advice. My situation, some of the guys that I played with and experienced with, I'll go and ask them and say, hey, do you know the history of this individual and how do you deal with it.
And most of the time, I will go to the caddie. I think the caddie is the guy who stands by his man in spite of anything or anybody else, and to find out what is going on: Is there some niggling health issues that he's not exposing; is it concentration; is it pressure; what is it, and find out.
So you've got to drill down to the core of the problem. And if the core is problem is just playing poorly, then you support had him with a player that doesn't mind the extra burden of responsibility and the extra burden of having to carry another player through.
And even when a player is playing poorly, you go make sure that they understand that you might play four or five holes bad or two or three holes bad, but you're going to play 12 or 13 holes really, really well. So just get out there knuckle down on those 12 or 13 holes. Those are the type of conversations I have.
Then at the end of the day, you try alleviate the pressure to allow them to play well and not put more pressure on them so say, what's wrong with you, why are you not playing up to your standards. Different tacks for different individuals.

Q. Wondering if you can talk just a little about Aaron Baddeley. He had a tough stretch there through the Majors, but he's playing pretty well. Is he a guy who knows Royal Melbourne as well as Ogilvy and Allenby?
GREG NORMAN: Oh, there's no question about it. Again, I've had a conversation with Aaron, quite a long conversation with him to talk about golf and how to improve in the game of golf, and he's very, very sensitive to what happens in the major championships. Aaron is a guy who is more of a sponge I suppose. He wants to understand what takes a player to a certain level and how to achieve that.
So yeah, he's in the mix, no question about it. His playability, ball flight, the way Royal Melbourne -- condition-wise, his ball flight is very, very suited to that golf course. And he putts well. And Royal Melbourne, the greens are going to be extremely fast, I know that. So putting well from inside six feet is huge.
So, Melanie, yeah, I feel for Aaron, because he's one of those guys who really wants it. Sometimes when you want it, you've got to be careful how you get it. Sometimes that's putting a little less strain on yourself that allows you to build up the ladder a little bit instead of trying to -- putting pressure on yourself and staying on one rung and maybe even drop back a little bit.
He's a great player. He's a great ball-striker, and I like his style. I like the way he is. I like the way he is in the locker room. So he's obviously a focal point of those top two picks, as well.

Q. I just want to go further on those picks, we have spoken of a few guys but there are a few Australians in the mix. Are you averse to having two Australians as your two picks? And after, if you could talk about your actual own experience at Royal Melbourne and what you can bring.
GREG NORMAN: First of all, I'm picking the player, I'm not picking the flag. The performance is what it's all about, and like I said, how they have been the last 90 days or 100 days is important to me.
Obviously if you focus on the flag behind the player's name, obviously you need to have crowd favorites and people who can pull the crowd in and get the crowd going for you. We would like to have that, because we really did not have that at San Francisco and there's no question the players like to play in front of a very friendly, cheerful, pulling crowd, and somebody who -- a crowd that might give you a clap, but there's not a lot of enthusiasm about it.
So, yeah, when you look at it that way, yes, obviously would you like to have two Australians on there. I think Geoff Ogilvy doing, that playing his way on, he's a very, very strong flag because he's extremely well liked in Australia. You look at Jason Day, Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy, we have the three linchpins of golfers carrying the Australian flag, so I think it is nice to have that in that department.
As for my experience of Royal Melbourne, I can just tell them -- I remember every putt. I know where the pin position is going to be. I know how to play the golf course. It's a golf course where it was designed to play backwards. You've got to find out where the pin position is first and then you have to position your tee shot to get access to the pin.
Sometimes you can't go straight at the pin, and more times than not, at Royal Melbourne, you cannot do that. There's a lot of sucker pins on the golf course, and if you get on the wrong side of the hole, a six-foot downhiller is a hundred times harder than a 30-foot straight up the hill, but you've got to know that.
So I have that experience, and I can talk to the guys. I'll be walking around this year, I won't have a bad wing. So I can get out there and be a little bit more engaging with the guys and maybe even putt a little bit with guys on certain greens and show them exactly what's going on.
And I understand the drainage of Royal Melbourne. I think that's a crucial part. Not going to go into anymore details on that because I'm sure Fred Couples will read this. The drainage of the greens is very, very important, and that affects the way the ball rolls, as well.

Q. The Presidents Cup was held at the Royal Melbourne golf club in 1998 with the International Team winning the Cup under your lead; while playing on your home ground this year, will that also be an advantage to winning the Cup once again?
GREG NORMAN: Yes, it will be, like I mentioned before with a previous answer to a question, I think there's no question as a player, whether it's individual tournament play or whether it's team play; you like to have that friendly crowd. I don't care what sport you play.
When you walk into that arena and you hear everybody pulling for you and yelling your name and cheering for and you hearing positive cheers, it really makes you relax. When you go into an arena where somebody is yelling negative comments to you, and really getting at you in a bad fashion, it puts a lot more weight. It's going to be a very strong individual to turn your mind off to that. Especially in the game of golf. In the game of golf, you've got a lot of downtime between shots. And even standing on the putting green, you've got a lot of downtime.
So if you walk 450 yards to a green in a hostile environment, your only preparation for a golf shot is only minutes really if you add up the tee shot, second shot. So by the time you're standing on the green, you've been inundated for 450 yards with a lot of negative energy. It's very, very hard to get your mind to turn that out and block it out to get in there and focus and concentrate on a putt even though the silence is there. There's no question, you do like it and I think any sportsman or woman would absolutely say the same thing.
LAURA HILL: Greg, we certainly appreciate your time this morning and congrats on a great team coming together. We look forward to talking to you in just a little over a week when you name your final two members of your team with your captain's picks. Thanks, and we'll talk to you soon.

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