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March 4, 1998
Q. What's the state of your game?
GREG NORMAN: Strong. I would say the last couple of weeks the tournaments I've played in I've played very well. I had a chance to win probably all three tournaments I played in, so I'm very happy with it at the moment.
Q. One of the players, I won't say who, he said he thought this golf course was actually playing too easy, that the ball is running forever, and the longest club hit into a par-4 was nothing, really. I wonder if you have any thoughts on that?
GREG NORMAN: Well, the golf course did play short today. The wind is blowing out of the north, and you're playing all your long holes downwind. 18 is always a driver, 8-iron, 9-iron downwind. And then you've got holes like 7 is a driver, pitch. 6 is a driver, pitching wedge. Your long par-3's, except the 12th hole, is it 12? 13, is just a cross breeze, it's not into your left or right or pushing you away. So, yeah, in this breeze the golf course plays a little shorter, and yes, the fairways are firmer, they are cut a little tighter and the ball is running on a little more than what we used to see here. But we've heard this many times here, the golf course is playing easy, why are the guys shooting the numbers we're shooting, we still love playing this golf course. But given the weather forecast, with the rains coming in, that means the wind is coming out of the south, that means it plays tough again.
Q. You seem to be a guy that can make 20 birdies or 30 birdies in a week, but you also enjoy playing tough golf courses. Would you prefer to see par really count?
GREG NORMAN: I like playing where 6- to 8-under is a very good score on a golf course. 280 to me is par, when you play golf. Most -- two of the four are at least reachable in two. And given that, 280 when you play golf is a good score. So when you take anything underneath that, it's obviously very accessible. So I like to see golf courses of that strength and caliber. I think the fairways are a little wider, they may or may not be, because I've played a couple of tight golf courses the last few weeks, but they seem to be a little wider, but that may just be the feel I have right now.
Q. They've been talking this week, about obsolete courses or courses getting too short, and as a designer, do you have a solution or suggestion what to do to keep some good courses from being obsolete?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I don't think you should change any of the great old golf courses. I'm very much against touching them because of technology has out grown them. The way to change golf courses is to make them firm and fast. If you get the greens extremely hard and fast, that's really your equalizer, for short golf courses. When we get into a situation when you're building a golf course, and you cannot fit in a 7200-hundred-yard golf course, which seems like the normal length now, that, 10, 20 years ago was an extremely long golf course, but now when you get around to about 7000 yards, 6900 or 7100, you just reduce the size of the greens, make the bunkers a little deeper, you make getting your access to the greens that much tougher, so if you miss-hit an 8, 9 or 7-iron, you're working hard to get up-and-down. And we've got 62-degree sand wedges, so that means bunkers should get deeper, and make those shots that much more difficult. So I look at reducing the size of the putting surface, sometimes you can't do that either because of the number of rounds you play. So it gets in a difficult position sometimes. But I know that I'd love to design a golf course about 6800 yards, where you still have a 470 hole par-4, and a couple of long par-5s, but it really makes it very difficult 420 to 380 holes, where you don't have to use a driver off the tee, and that's what's happening here, you can still hit your driver, that's why we're having pitching wedges and 9 irons into the greens, because we are all hitting the ball further nowadays than we were ten years ago.
Q. You were quoted as saying you like to build the toughest golf courses, if you were, what kind of golf course would that be?
GREG NORMAN: The toughest golf course.
Q. I read a quote when you were in Australia that you'd like to build the toughest golf course available.
GREG NORMAN: No, I said the easiest thing to do is build the toughest golf course, the hardest thing is to build a balanced golf course. I could build a golf course that would be impossible to play, so could you, anybody in the room could. It's how you balance it out. That's where the statement got a little bit misconstrued.
Q. That's the first time you were ever misquoted, then (laughter?)
GREG NORMAN: Getting back to the length of the golf courses, that's what I'd love to do, 6800 golf course, and make the guy think off the tee, instead of pull that big club out of the bag.
Q. Access to the green is what you could make tougher?
GREG NORMAN: Yes, pin positioning. You don't have to put dead elephants in the greens, either, you can still have very difficult accessibility with the shot, being a very flat green, you'll see it when you go down to the Presidents Cup. I think there's a classic example of a golf course with huge greens, you're talking averaging probably 8000-square-feet greens, huge greens, but unless you put the ball in a certain position on the green, you've got no chance, because of the speed of them. They're faster than Augusta National, and at that time it's going to be December, but you get an idea of what you can do on big, flat, just one slope, either back-to-front, left-to-right or right-to-left or front-to-back. You get to understand the philosophy that I like to do with golf courses.
Q. What about Augusta National, do you think that it's near obsolete or anything of that nature?
GREG NORMAN: Well, it's getting close, mainly because of the par-5s are so short. But you're talking about everybody in the field going at all par-5s except maybe the 8th, I think the majority of the guys, maybe not the majority, but 50 percent of the guys could reach 8 in 2. And 8 is a long hole uphill. But every other player is going into the par-5s with irons. It's not a problem going into the second hole with a 5-iron, 6-iron if you hit a good drive. When you start talking with Augusta National, that's where their weakness is right now is the length of their par-5s, then you can go to the long par-4s, the 6th hole?
Q. 5th hole.
GREG NORMAN: The 5th hole. That's a very, very difficult, we're only hitting 8-iron, 7-iron, 6-iron, because of the size of your landing area. Again, you've only got about 6 feet from 160 to 80 yards to land that ball in. That's where you've got the premium on the guys to play on. I think that's one of the hardest holes to play on. The par-5s is their weakness.
Q. Their response to when I ask is they give me a lot of statistics and they'll ask you about scoring averages and things of that nature, which have not changed appreciably in the last decade. Is that comparing apples to oranges or does that not apply?
GREG NORMAN: Well, the score seems to be the same, except last year, of course. But again, it's the speed of the greens. If you have that golf course playing extremely fast -- and then again I'll give you another insight at Augusta is the way they mow the fairways, you're always hitting into the grain. When you're hitting into the grain, you're not getting any release on the ball, so that's how they try to lengthen the golf course as well. I remember a couple of years ago they used to cut it, because it used to look good on television, light and dark, we used to aim down the light side, because it was down grain, and if you miss-hit it you'd lose 30 yards to the guy playing beside you, because into the grain reduces the roll of the ball. Nowadays they mow everything down grain, they go from green to tee, so that's it. That's just one of the little ways they try to lengthen the golf course.
Q. What's your schedule leading into Augusta?
GREG NORMAN: TPC after this one.
Q. That's the only thing you're playing?
GREG NORMAN: Yes.
Q. Why are you playing so few?
GREG NORMAN: I think that's about all I play, anyway. Doral, TPC. Last year I didn't play Honda, Bay Hill.
Q. You played New Orleans last year?
GREG NORMAN: Yes. But the year before that I didn't play. So it's about normal. I don't think there's much difference in it.
Q. Obviously you don't think there's a danger that you might not be competition tough?
GREG NORMAN: I'll be ready. I'll be ready to go. I'd rather be home hitting balls to tell you the truth and get physically and mentally ready than be out playing New Orleans and getting cold and weather beaten, which you can be sometimes.
Q. What are you going to be doing the next two weeks when you're not playing, then?
GREG NORMAN: I'll be practicing. I've got some friends in town. I'm taking the kids spring skiing for a couple of days, four days, just doing dad things and husband things and other work, that's all.
Q. Do you do special practice and preparation for Augusta?
GREG NORMAN: I do. I mean I'll go into some places with the Medalist and practice downhill lies, like 6- and 7-irons, 8-irons, hanging lies like you have a 9-iron, 8-iron on the 9th hole. I practice those type of shots. I practice 5-iron, 4-iron, 3-iron shots like you have on the 13th hole, from that uphill side hanging lie because you really don't play that many shots of that ilk leading up into that. Like Florida here is a flat golf course and Bay Hill and Honda are flat. So I go and practice certain shots.
Q. Will you go to Augusta before?
GREG NORMAN: I may this year, if the weather is nice I might head up there a day.
Q. Do you normally do that?
GREG NORMAN: I used to then I went out of it and then I did it a couple of years ago. It depends on the weather.
Q. Do you have any intention of playing the Byron Nelson or Colonial this year?
GREG NORMAN: No, I think I'm going to be out of the country, in May I'll be out of the country. I come back in for my big drive at Indianapolis, and then that's it.
Q. Greg, is it too early for you to start getting pumped up about the Presidents Cup or are you starting to get excited about it already?
GREG NORMAN: It's way too early. I think once the team is announced, that's when you start getting excited, because everybody will start talking, around July when -- when is the team announced, anyway? Anybody know?
Q. It's not until the end of the season.
GREG NORMAN: We normally have a meeting around July at the British Open with all the International Players. I think that gets everybody a bit fired up. There's about 15 guys in the room or 20 guys in the room and everybody really wants -- we have -- now today for example, we had one caddy who said I want to get on that Presidents Cup team. You have the caddies wanting to go, and the players start talking about it.
Q. How big is it going to be in Australia?
GREG NORMAN: I have no idea, but I assume it's going to be very successful because, A, it's sold out. All the tickets are sold out. I'm not the captain of the team, so I don't know the details.
LEE PATTERSON: There's a big Media Day over there.
GREG NORMAN: When I was down there -- we were in Sydney, but when I was in Melbourne the end of last year, which is 13 months before the event, there was a lot of talk about it then. And we're getting the chat, is the rejigging of the layout is more the chat, because Melbourne is like the St. Andrews of Scotland and the Pine Valleys over here. When you go changing the layout, I think that's more of the chit-chat that goes on down there. And that's what you've heard too, probably, Andrew.
Q. Greg, this will be the 25th PLAYERS Championship. Has there been a corresponding rise that the older that tournament gets -- has there been a corresponding level of how big that tournament is? Is it ever going to be a threat to be not one of the Majors, but considered in that level?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I've never believed that there will be a 5th Major. I think you'll have your four and it will stay at that. But I believe the TPC is stronger than a couple of other Majors, you can just look at the strength of the field. I think of all the tournaments we play in that's probably the hardest one to win, with the strength of the field, because you have the best of the players from all around the world. Last year I think we had the top 50, and I think the PGA Championship was the next best. So that tells you the TPC should be No. 2 tournament in the world. But it doesn't work that way. We have our four Major championships and we leave it at that, everybody rests their hat on that. And the TPC is miles ahead of any other golf tournament we ever play in.
Q. Has that course also matured to the point where like some British Open courses and like some U.S. Open courses and Augusta, you can sort out the players, you can say they have the game for Sawgrass?
GREG NORMAN: I think Sawgrass has gotten a little easier over the years. I think it's gotten easier because the players -- I remember when we first went there, you couldn't miss the fairway, because you had Palmetto bushes, Bay Hill was the same way. Players talk and they like to see the golf course rearranged or changed in certain ways, and that's what happened. So I think the TPC golf course has gotten a little easier as time went on. There's one example of a golf course, if it's soft, the boys are going to chew it up, but if it's firm, 8-under par, 6-under par will win around that golf course every year if it's firm and fast.
Q. Do you think it should be left alone and let the weather determine how it's played?
GREG NORMAN: When I do golf courses I let Mother Nature take care of it. I'm not one for putting a lot of water on it. You have to get good deep healthy root structure to get strong grass. If you put a lot of water on the surface you get short roots. If people see lush, they think it's good, but if you get the grass hungry, it will go deep and you get real tight roots, and tight grass blade and all of a sudden you have a very fast golf course. So that's the way I recommend when we do our golf courses that just let the water come from Mother Nature. With the agronomy as good as it is these days and the grasses we have the choices of getting, they can survive, they really can survive the cold, they survive the heat, they survive 30 days without water. Some people aren't used to seeing a little brawniness to a golf course. But overseas, you all go to Scotland and see how brown those places look, and we love it. And the Scottish people love it, because that ball is chasing away from 40, 60, 70 yards sometimes. And you've got no control over that ball when it hits the ground and does that. That's where the nuances of the game come into play, the bounce of the ball. That's why we love to play Scottish golf courses.
Q. Greg, what you're talking about, about the drying out the golf courses, we were discussing that with Nicklaus yesterday and he didn't think that there would be a lot of courses built that way, because he didn't think members would want a course that wasn't lush and green and wet, how do you get around that, how do you convince these people that this is the right thing to do?
GREG NORMAN: It's more of a thing here in the United States where they like to see it green and lush. I can give you an example, the Medalist Golf Club up just in Martin County, the members are members of Pine Valley and Shinnecock, and the eastern golf courses are very lush and green, and it took them two years to get used to having the Medalist dry and fast and brownish looking in the winter, I don't believe in overseeding, down here, so we let the greens get dormant Bermuda look to them, and they get very fast, they putt at about 12. And once they got used to that they absolutely love it. Because now all of a sudden the world of their game of golf has changed. They can bump-and-run from 80 yards or putt from 40 yards from the edge of the green or still use their lob wedge if they want to. So they have a lot more choices. I can understand what Jack is saying, I agree with him, it's a matter of letting them get used to it and understand how to play the game that way. But if you take a bunch -- when I take friends to the British Open and I take them to Ireland or Scotland and we play a few golf courses and they haven't been over there before, they love it. They love the fact that it's brown and hard and the ball runs, because all of a sudden they've gone from 240-yard hitter to 280-yard hitter and they feel great. So again, it's just a matter of getting used to the idea.
Q. How has your Majors philosophy changed over time or has it changed over time?
GREG NORMAN: Well, it hasn't changed in the fact that you want to win them, but it has changed in the fact that it's not going to be the end of the world. If I win on one -- every Major this year, it wouldn't change my life one bit. You get to a point where -- I still want to go win them because I'm a competitor and they're a major championship. Can you understand what I'm trying to say there? My priority is still to go out and play to win, but I wouldn't be devastated if I didn't, because it wouldn't have one effect on my life. I said this two years ago at the Masters. Winning wouldn't have changed me, but losing did change me. And I think that, there, is the reality of it all, for myself and my life, that I picked up out of it.
Q. I don't know if this has any bearing, but after seeing John Elway or Dale Earnhardt finally getting the championship they were striving for, does that help you out any, heading into Augusta?
GREG NORMAN: Does it help me out? I hope so. The old guys are going to get a chance still, is that what you're saying? If you like to think of things like that, yes, I think that would be nice. Because I know from knowing both those guys how pleased they would have been to win their respective Masters or Super Bowl or the 500. So, yeah, I think so.
Q. How hard is to remain patient and not want to win another major Too much?
GREG NORMAN: I think the older you get the more patient you become, I really do. Because there's a lot of other things going on in my life that enables me to be that way, as well. My No. 1 goal in life is to play golf, and to be a golfer. And then there are other things going on which helps me balance out if I don't do that great on the golf course this week, okay, that's fine, I'll go on, I'll practice harder, but there's other things I can focus my attention on, too. So the older I've become the more patient I've become about things.
Q. I would have thought you would have thought, gee, I've got --
GREG NORMAN: I'm running out of time, I've got to do this.
Q. Maybe I've only got seven or eight good years left in me type of thing?
GREG NORMAN: Yes, but I don't relate to it like that. I go one at a time and then whenever I make the decision to stop playing, that's when I'll make, say, okay, I really feel sad because I didn't do this or didn't do that, or I feel great because I did do it. It's very difficult to answer or talk about until you really get to that point.
Q. How special is this place to you because of your success here?
GREG NORMAN: I enjoy it. Like I said, I'm really looking forward to getting back there and playing. That means a lot when you say something like that, because, success on a golf course makes you want to get back to that golf course. And I'm looking forward to this week. My game is strong enough and good enough to go on and perform well to win this tournament. And that's -- when you feel excited about getting to the golf course, too, that's just that much more enthusiasm comes into you.
Q. What did you do on Monday?
GREG NORMAN: I was in Marrakesh Monday for two days, got in last night.
Q. Were you doing a course down there?
GREG NORMAN: No, just doing some other business.
Q. What sort of other business?
GREG NORMAN: Just other business.
Q. Have you mellowed?
GREG NORMAN: Oh, absolutely I've mellowed, yeah. I've mellowed to -- because like I said before, there's so many other good things going on in my life, not only my golf, but everything else in my life I enjoy doing. So that eases, mellows you out and relaxes you a little bit. I don't think I go at life any harder than what I did ten years ago, but seems like I've got a very well-balanced life right now. And with that in mind, I seem to flow through every day in a nice, easy gentle fashion.
Q. Is it easier for you?
GREG NORMAN: Absolutely, life is a lot easier for me.
Q. Is competing?
GREG NORMAN: No, because competing is different, because I'm a lot tougher on myself when I get out there, because I'm a true competitor. And the same goes when you sit down and negotiate a contract or a business deal, you're still a competitor, you've got that desire to get the best out of the deal or the best out of golf course or the best out of yourself. So when I walk out there I am probably just as tough and ferocious as what I was in my mid 20's and 30's. But I'm more patient about it at the same time.
Q. The Sony ranking flip-flopped a little bit at the top, do you follow that, what is your attitude toward that?
GREG NORMAN: No. Well, the attitude is the same attitude I've had a long time about it. I've never been one to follow it. I've always been a believer if you perform well on the golf course everything else will take care of itself. And I've always been a believer until you put everybody playing together, like the TPC Championships, when you've got the best playing against the best, then you'll have a true ranking system. And until we have that it's very difficult to balance it out. As Jumbo Ozaki in the position he's in, when he hasn't won another golf tournament outside of Japan or the United States or Europe or anywhere, there's a perfect point of case right there. You've got to have a very balanced schedule. And putting points on a schedule for certain Tours because of the number of Sony ranking players playing in each event, it's not the same as coming to the TPC and playing against all 50 or all 80 guys that are in the top of their field playing there that given week. So that's why I'm not a big believer or never really followed it.
Q. Greg, the 7th hole in Olympic this year, drivable par-4, the one you've driven in the Open in the past and I know you have at Sugarloaf on the backside of 14. Can you comment on No. 7, the uniqueness in a major, is that something you'd like to incorporate into your course design?
GREG NORMAN: We were discussing this 15 minutes ago, there's a perfect example of making a golf hole 285 yards, 90 yards, or whatever that hole is and making it extremely difficult doesn't put a premium on either driving the green -- even if you hit that green you can 4-putt it. So I love those holes like that. I think that's the way to really challenge a good player or one of the top players is to give him -- that's why McKenzie was so great at designing golf courses. You can go to the 14th hole at St. Andrews and play it four or five different ways. But he did that intentionally to give you the option of how to figure it out. A player of your caliber you might be better off hitting it way left and going down the 4th hole and coming all the way into the green and playing the long fairway. But he gave you the option to do it. The same at the 7th hole at Olympic. Do you tee off with a 5-iron and hit a full pitching wedge in knowing you only have two feet to land it on the back pin or drive it to the front edge and have one of the toughest putts in the world, where you can 4-putt or putt off the back of the green, these are great those golf holes like that. The only way you can test a player is challenge his thinking ability and work out what the best way is of playing.
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