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August 23, 2000

Greg Norman


NELSON LUIS: Okay. We'd like to welcome Greg Norman here with us. He's playing in his third event since undergoing hip surgery in late June, and playing in his second World Golf Championships NEC Invitational. Welcome aboard. Why don't you just briefly give us some comments on being here this week.

GREG NORMAN: Well, the main comment of being here is that you are on the Presidents Cup team. And I think from a player's perspective we are very, very enthusiastic about it. We kind of gear this right from the get-go. Your team's camaraderie over the last couple of Presidents Cups has been very, very strong. I think right now there is a lot more incentive within the last 12 months for the players wanting to be on the team. So, obviously playing Firestone and being here is very crucial. And the fact that you're on the team -- and we all want to be on the team -- and I relate to it a lot like the Ryder Cup, the players want to be on the Ryder Cup team. Now, from the international players' standpoint, we all want to play on the Presidents Cup team. And it's a pleasure to be here.

Q. Have you talked to Steve Elkington at all about the surgery he had? Is it totally similar to yours?

GREG NORMAN: I spoke to Steve 45 minutes ago on the drive over from the airport. I check in with him every now and then to see how he's doing, mainly because I'm the one who was very suggestive in him going down there. He's doing great. In the middle of a rehab, has not had any repercussions. Feels great, like me. It was instant relief for him. I don't want to go too much into the details, because -- what he told me, because I think that's only fair for him to say. But the rotation in his hip, he told me, is 3 1/2 -- three times tighter than what it was prior to the surgery. So, he's feeling very good and very strong.

Q. Was it more extensive than what you had?

GREG NORMAN: He had exactly the same problem. Mine was the back side; he is the front side. Because he had so much motion in his hip, they had to use just a little more laser heat probe to tighten up the joint. My joint was fairly tight as it was -- some, but not the same as what Steve had. It may take him ten days to two weeks longer to get back because the muscles and inflammation and muscles to repair; that takes a little bit longer than the bone.

Q. On the Presidents Cup thing, would you like to see everybody get in the same way, off the World Ranking, as opposed to a money list here?

GREG NORMAN: You're talking with regard to what's happened to some of the European players -- or more from across the board making a stand -- I think it's basically up to each country. We, as an International Team, because we don't have a set money list to work off of, and a lot of the international players play in different places around the world, so, it's difficult for us to work off the same criteria that Europe and U.S. can do. So for us, the World Rankings is very easy for us.

Q. If I could just put in, this is a World Golf Championship. It just seems that it would be more consistent if you had world rankings --

GREG NORMAN: That's where I was going to go next. The fact that if you look at what the major championships are doing, they are trying to standardize basically, and you see that they are pretty much all using the World Rankings to get -- even Augusta National. So there is a lot of credence in that taking place. I am a little miffed, as are a lot of the other players, with what's happened to the Ryder Cup team and the money list and changing that in midstream. But to standardize, it would be a very logical step. And using one system used on a global basis is the smart way of going.

Q. You've played well at Firestone in the past, and I know you love this course, and you know you love this tournament. How are you playing coming into this championship?

GREG NORMAN: I was a little disappointed last weekend at the PGA. I actually felt pretty good going into the PGA Championship; and unfortunately, it just didn't pan out for me the way I would have liked to have done. But that having been said, I still feel very, very comfortable with my game, still feel extremely comfortable with my hip. There's no -- no ill effects that I can say after two weeks, and a lot of practice in -- between hand. A lot of walking. I have had no effect from that. So still very, very upbeat; very, very positive about it all. And I was just a little miffed at what happened at the PGA Championship. So, put that one to bed and move on to the next one.

Q. What is the key, for you, at Firestone, and what is the key to play here?

GREG NORMAN: I think Firestone is one of the greatest driving golf courses we play. It's got very narrow fairways, but very defined fairways. You know exactly what you've got to do. It is a golf course where you do have to maneuver the ball right-to-left, left-to-right. It's a golf course where you do have to use your driver in some situations. That doesn't take place in a lot of the modern type of golf courses we do play. And it's a golf course that just -- up and back, basically. But when you go up and back, there's a lot of thought process and shot-making. I've always enjoyed it. It's always been one of my favorite layouts because of that reason. And even though it is long, it doesn't play that long. We don't normally play off the tip, tip, tips, with the yardage we measure. But at the same time, very well-balanced golf course from short holes to long holes, to three-shot par 5s to reachable par 5s. This golf course has pretty much got everything you need, and I do enjoy playing it for that reason.

Q. Does the Presidents Cup give your season a sort of end-of-term focus where perhaps there was not one, and you might already be thinking towards next year?

GREG NORMAN: I'd have to say yes. I think it's -- I'm glad we're talking a little bit about the Presidents Cup, because obviously that's why we're here. But I think it's extremely important from the players' perspective to view this as we have to move off, and we have to travel, whether it's in Australia, playing here in Lake Manassis (phonetic), back in South Africa, I think it is the responsibility from every team member from both sides to really support this. And a lot of people are going to say, "Well, you're only saying that because you don't have to play Ryder Cup and a Presidents Cup. You're not playing two team competitions, one each year." But I think it's very important on a global basis of what the game of golf is for lesser countries, like Australia, in regards where we have to pay appearance money to get the great names to get down there, like going to South Africa. It's an important duty from our part, players' part to support the game of golf, no matter where we golf. We are truly global players, whether you are American, whether you are from South Africa, Australia, Japan. And for us to support this type of deal -- not only to support golf and the charities that we benefit from, but it also supports the nations that do not get a chance to see the best players in the world go down there. And to get them down there for a regular tour event, you'd blow your budget for appearance fees. So I think it is an extremely important deal that we all keep that in perspective from a players' perspective. You hear a lot of guys saying, "Well, I don't want to get on a plane and travel a long way." We've all had to do that. It's our responsibility, media's responsibility, get on a plane and travel a long way, too. We all go through the same deal. I think it is an extremely important issue that we have to support where the game of golf is going, not just through the Presidents Cup, but right across the board. You can just imagine what's going to happen to South Africa, to that nation, if we get all the guys to support it. It will be a huge shot in the arm for that country. And I think that is an important issue we cannot forget.

Q. Does it give your own season a focus?

GREG NORMAN: Leading to that, the focus goes into that. I continue on down to Australia, so I still keep playing golf. It's a good additive for me. I'm still practicing; I'm still playing. And it's just getting me ready to play golf Down Under.

Q. Does it seem odd to have a World Golf Championships event and a couple guys that are in, whatever they are, the Top-10 or 15 and are not here? Do you get any feeling that situation will be worked on in the future?

GREG NORMAN: I mean, I'd like to say what I'd like to say, but I think it would be very much headlines tomorrow. I think it is a crying shame. There's no reason for it. This is a World Golf Championships. There are players that should be in this tournament. And everybody knows the reason why they are not in this tournament. And I think there's got to be some serious dialogue behind the scenes to make sure that this never happens again. And obviously when you see things like this does happen, there's always an effect. And the effect is Jesper Parnevik, which I read in the newspaper. You guys read the same thing, as I did, resigns from the European Tour. That type of stuff is not necessary. He is a great asset to the game of golf. He has been a great supporter of the game of golf on a global basis, always made the effort to go back to Europe, he's always supported his home tour, made the effort to travel around the world, but yet he has to resign from the Tour because of the circumstances around the qualifications for this tournament being changed. I think it is sad, I really do. Because we all want to play against the best players in the world, no question about that. And if -- I guess he's the Top-10, isn't he? Sergio, what is he? Where is he? 15, I mean ... hello. (Laughs).

Q. Do you feel strongly enough to talk to Ken Schofield this week?

GREG NORMAN: It's not an issue that I have with Ken Schofield. It's an issue that I see from just a pure, common sense point of view about the stature of individuals in the game of golf. You know, I can understand where -- administrations can obviously change their rules and regulations any time they want. But there's obviously going to be a ripple effect to it. The least amount of noise that we create around here, the better off everything is. And I think from that regard, if Ken wanted to talk to me about it, I would be glad -- but it's not my point to go up to Ken and say, "Hey... can you read my mind?" (Laughter.)

Q. How did you spend last weekend? Did you catch any of Bob May in action on Sunday?

GREG NORMAN: I watched from the 15th hole onwards, regulation play. I didn't see the playoff. I went and did something else. You know, I think it was a -- a lot of it, from a player's perspective, my heart went out to Bob. He did a phenomenal job. But on the other side of the coin, Tiger did a phenomenal job, too. He answered everything he needed to answer. His flat stick is obviously a great asset to him right now because he can play aggressive golf and recover and make the 15-, 20-footers he needs to. The putt he made in regulation on the 72nd hole is probably one of the toughest putts he'd ever have to make to continue the tournament on. So from both perspectives, I think both the guys should hold their heads extremely high. I think it was good for golf; I think it was good entertainment. There was excitement involved in it. And unfortunately, at the end of the day in golf, there is only one winner. And I'm sure that Bob feels he had done himself proud. And I thought the PGA Championship should be very fortunate to have an end result like that.

Q. Apparently in the golf shops around the country, crowds were gathering, just standing around because it was so riveting, the whole thing.

GREG NORMAN: Very seldom you get that taking place in a regular championship. We see that on the regular Tour events, week -in, week-out. But when you relate to golf and say there's four major championships, and let's hope we get a great major championship, like a Super Bowl, when we get weak Super Bowls, TV's get turned off after the middle of the third quarter. Obviously, the three majors prior, there was an extremely big blowout stroke-wise, so people were interested in that. But they were not as interested if there was a head-to-head battle between two boxers ready to trade punches. There's always an underdog influence. People like the underdog. So you get a certain percentage pulling for Bob, and a certain percentage pulling for Tiger to win. I think all that adds to it, and I think that's why you had the people standing around the counters at the pro shops and leaning on the bar.

Q. You mentioned how difficult a putt that was for Tiger on the 72nd hole. Thomas Bjorn made some comments and said that when Tiger was up by 15 strokes at Pebble Beach, it was not that difficult; he was playing loose and free. Are you more impressed with the way he played in this tournament, in a tough match against Bob May than the way he won by 15 and 8 strokes?

GREG NORMAN: That's a lot to be said when you're that far ahead. You're kind of like -- an example is when you've got a three-shot lead you knock it on 18, you've got a 45-footer. What do you normally do? You make it. That's because you're loose and you rip it in the back of the hole. A lot has to be said when you have a fairly substantial lead. You're relaxed, you're comfortable, the ball goes further, things are clearer in your mind and you have a tendency to stretch because everybody is pushing themselves to catch you; so they are not as loose and free and they have more pressure on them. But when you're a good player in your head it is easier when you've got a certain margin there to play with, you kind of, like, relax. In watching Tiger on the weekend, I thought he probably grew up more out of the PGA Championship in the game of golf than what he did the two majors prior, because there's a lot of -- a great sense of satisfaction when you've got to make a 15-footer on the 15th hole to stop a two-shot swing. He knew that and Bob May knew that. And so from a player's perspective, just to confidently and quietly go about his business and do that, I think that was a bit of a turning point, mentally, for Tiger. And then obviously stepping up to 18 and doing what he had to do, and seeing -- one thing you don't take into consideration because you are not there in the center of the green is the absolute noise that takes place when Bob makes that putt. When you're in an amphitheater, that's deafening. You have to recover yourself, compose yourself, on top of all that; and knowing the circumstances, if you don't make it, the thing is all done with and you're going home. I think that's why, from a player's perspective, I think Tiger would probably take a little bit more out of winning the PGA the way he did than waltzing away like he did at the U.S. Open and British Open.

Q. What are you seeing when Tiger is putting in circumstances where he needs to make a putt? How would you evaluate his stroke? What do you think is going on in his head? How is it different for him in that situation? You are obviously a great putter in your career?

GREG NORMAN: I would say that -- you could see in a player his posture over the putt, when he's ready to execute, he is locked in. He's physically -- he's solid, but he's relaxed. So the only thing he needs to do is move the grip of the putter, and move the putter head at the same time and go ahead. But confidence has a lot to do with everything else, too. He's seen a lot of putts go in this year and last year and the year before. So he's got a reservoir of that going on in his head. It's easy for him to say, "Well, I know I'm stroking well. Just hit a solid putt and it will go in." When I was sitting in the gym with Pete, I was saying to Pete, my trainer, I said, "Pete, of all the golfers in the world right now, Tiger is probably the most technically correct across the board, physically." When he knows that, then obviously confidence goes up a little bit at a high level. And whether it's putting, chipping, or whether it is hitting a driver, because he is so technically correct, and it is easy for a player to see it -- and that's one thing I notice a few of the commentators did not pick up on and take comment on. Especially under the gun, when you are technically correct, there is not a whole lot that you have to worry about, and that is why he booned that 340-yard drive down 17. I said to Pete, "He just got ripped ." He looked more relaxed, more in a power position in that drive than he did over the last couple, because he had not hit a driver. He hit 2-iron off 15 and 16, and all of the sudden he pulls out his favorite weapon and see ya. From a player's perspective -- that's what I like to watch in golf. I would like to see a guy who is technically correct in the way he goes about doing his business, and that's what he's doing right now.

Q. Talking about the will that Nicklaus had over the putts, and now with Woods, is will as much technique as it is heart and mental strength that is required to get the ball over the hole there?

GREG NORMAN: I think it is a combination. I think that Jack -- and I was asked this question at the PGA Championship to compare the two. It is very difficult because they are two totally different animals. The approach, Jack would beat you to death with his mind. Tiger has the ability to beat you to death with his physical ability, as well as his mind, because I think the mental aspect comes because of his physical approach. He is technically right and gets up there and feel confident that he's not going to mis-hit a shot. And when you feel that good with yourself, your mind come loose over a drive and you become more relaxed, more confident; and so it just keeps building that critical mass within himself. So I would say that Tiger is more technically correct in his putting stroke than what Jack was. I mean, just the camera angles just prove that correct when you see it. But now, like I said, it's filtering into his mind; he can't miss a putt now. And that's a wonderful feeling to have.

Q. You mentioned before that we can't understand what it is like when you hear the thunder of a putt going in. What is it look when you hear the thunder, and then there's absolute silence and you step up? How do you say -- what prevents you from stepping back and saying, "Where is the noise?" How do you refocus?

GREG NORMAN: Well, because you're used to it. It's like driving to work every day. You know you're going to get a red light. You're used to what to deal with when you're sitting at a red light or whatever situation happens on a regular basis. The more you're in that situation, you hear it because it's just a thunderous applause and ovation. But then he shuts everything off, even if the crowd was still roaring -- I know I've experienced it myself and I've seen other guys do it; they go ahead and play even when there is noise. So they shut it out immediately because they know they have got to go about their business.

Q. But it's not eerie with dead silence --

GREG NORMAN: Perfect example, when I was playing Ken Brown at the European Open one year in Sunningdale. And we go to the first hole of a playoff. I hole a putt and he had to putt behind me, and he backed off and he said -- you guys won't remember this, European guys might remember -- he said, "Man, it's too quiet, will somebody make a noise?" He couldn't deal with the quietness. He obviously went ahead and missed his 4-footer. I said, "Thank you very much, let's go home." So he was already thinking about how quiet it was instead of making a 4-footer to extend the tournament. So there is a situation where that can affect somebody's thinking, but that means he's not focused on his job.

Q. In so many events like the Presidents Cup, these noises we're talking about happen very frequently, and often times not even during your own match. Can you talk about the psychology of hearing the different roars, how that influences you? And the competition, how you see these two teams shaping up?

GREG NORMAN: The roar in a team situation, you can definitely tell. Obviously in the home country, there's a louder roar when there is a win of a hole. And for the balance of the Ryder Cup I think -- the Presidents Cup, I think we're finding that from an international standpoint, our team is very, very well-balanced. We like the way our team has fallen into place. Even though we've got one guy on the injured reserved list, I know he is going to come back; I'll come out of injury. The key to us and I'm talking about us, is the camaraderie and spirit within our team. It is extremely high. And you look at the U.S. team, very, very strong caliber of players right down. Interesting choices Ken Venturi made, very well-balanced choices. I would say one guy is a very good putter, consistent player. And Paul Azinger, the emotion, enthusiasm and Paul brings into a locker room is great, too. So they have a very well-balanced team. So hopefully all of the noises outside the team will be okay, and we can all deal with it and go on with it.

End of FastScripts....

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