August 4, 2000
CASTLE ROCK, COLORADO
LEE PATTERSON: Wonderful start to the tournament. Maybe a couple of thoughts about the past two days and heading into the weekend.
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think the main thought is the fact that my mind is free now just to concentrate on golf and not worrying about the problems of whatever was going on within my body. I think that is basically the key to it all. I have got -- I know my body feels good. I know what I did was right. And now I am focusing on the golf. And I am more relaxed and a lot freer with the way -- with my approach to the game.
LEE PATTERSON: Good.
Q. Are you in all honesty surprised how well you have done this week? Those two rounds 67, 65 is just --
GREG NORMAN: No, not really. Jennifer Mills asked me a question out there, 'do you have to play competitive golf to be competitive'. I don't necessarily agree with that, because if you practice right and you prepare yourself right, no matter whether you are making a 4-foot putt in a practice round or making a 4-footer out here, you are still trying to make them, still trying to put the right stroke on it. I have done that for years. I have come off a 4-, 5-week break and practiced well, and come in and performed fairly well in lots of circumstances. Even what happens is you are a competitor, and whenever you get in that competitive mode, no matter what the shot or whatever the situation is, if it is in the heat of the battle, you are ready to go, if your golf game is ready to go and if your mind is ready to go with it. I feel very much that way.
Q. However, the story we heard from Larry Thiel was that when you called him a week or two, whatever, ago and said: "I hope you still want me," you were so excited about how well you were playing that you were chomping at the bit to get out. Very eager to get out; is that correct?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I knew when I started hitting balls a week ago Wednesday, just to have the freedom in my body to swing away again was wonderful. I got excited just by that, just by the sheer fact that I could swing a golf club and not experience pain. When you feel that way, boy, it is a joy to get out there. I don't care if I play 36 holes in one day around here, you might get tired. But tired is a totally different thing than pain. When I spoke to Larry, I called Larry up to see if there was an accommodation available and stuff, because it was a late decision. I knew I was ready to come play.
Q. You said the other day when you were in here that the doctors told you that after the first round you might not feel the aches and pains so much but it would depend on how you felt after Wednesday. How did you feel Wednesday? How did you feel yesterday? How do you feel today?
GREG NORMAN: Today I feel fine. I would be lying if I didn't say I could feel that I went 25 holes, or whatever how many holes I went today. Mainly because you are tired from fatigue-wise, from leg-wise and muscle-wise, not from anything in the hip or any problems like that. It is just -- I am sure every player walks around here, says wouldn't mind putting their feet up for hour or two after walking up-and-down these hills. Outside of that, when I woke up Thursday morning feeling okay, I knew that I was going to be fine from there on in.
Q. When you decided to have the surgery, what tournament did you expect to return? You say you are two weeks ahead, but you expected -- was it PGA?
GREG NORMAN: PGA was going to be the first one. As I got -- felt better and better, I thought, well, it might be important to get out there and play a tournament before the PGA, mainly because of the walking aspect. In South Florida in the heat of the day I don't do an -- I hit a lot of golf balls, but I walk 18 holes every day. That was a big concern. Just get out there and walk 18 holes every day plus all the other walking you do, which pretty much makes it like 27 holes a day, and that is the reason why we just decided to throw it in here.
Q. How important is it for you to come back as you have done and go straight into contention?
GREG NORMAN: I think -- well, obviously it is very important. But I knew that I knew my golf game was going to be okay once I woke up the day after surgery and I didn't have any pain. I knew I was going to be okay. I just knew from that moment onwards. Coming back out here, I wanted to come out here, obviously play well and perform well. And as I started, when I started hitting the ball on Wednesday in the Pro-Am, I felt, boy, I am starting to hit the ball fairly solid. And took over into Thursday, and Thursday obviously played well. This morning, I just kept it ongoing, and I have no complaints about my golf game. So at the end of day, it was important, it is an extremely important issue to say that you are in contention, irrespective of what happens from here on in for this golf tournament. It's put me way ahead of the curve in anticipation of getting my game back.
Q. Particularly with the PGA Championship in mind as well?
GREG NORMAN: Absolutely. That is the target, yeah.
Q. Last hole this morning from the first round, seemed like just as you brought the putter back, did you hear any -- did you hear the train whistle?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, it went off, yeah. A lot of trains around here. I shouldn't have listened to it, I suppose. (laughs).
Q. You said on Wednesday that you were going to kind of take a low-key approach, and it didn't sound like you are really going to be maybe as intense as if you were in peak form. Does the mindset change now that you are in second place and in contention?
GREG NORMAN: No, still be a low-key approach. Low-key approach is coming in relaxed within yourself. Obviously, now if you are in contention, you still want to keep low key, you still want to keep relaxed within yourself and go out there and play. I am going to be a lot of strokes back or points back from Ernie, so I better play well over the weekend. Nobody wants to see anybody run away from the field. Ernie has seen that enough this year, so. . . (laughter). I think he would rather, he would like to do that, but nobody likes to see that happen when you are playing behind him.
Q. You looked a little peeved coming off the last hole here. Did you feel like you should have holed that last putt?
GREG NORMAN: No. When you don't birdie 8, and I hit a great drive down 9, no, I don't think I was peeved. I think I was just glad we got in before a storm came in so we didn't have to wake up early again tomorrow morning. But no, I wasn't peeved at all.
Q. Before your surgery all year you have -- you were actually talking about you weren't happy with your putting. Has that come around this week?
GREG NORMAN: Well, let me tell you this. There is a lot of things that go -- every time I lined up a putt, I'd have to get up and walk around the green because my hip was locked up, so when I go to stand over a putt, I have got -- you have to try this when you have pain shooting down your leg and you have got to make a putt, you never really are thinking about the lie. You guys don't understand what it is like for me to actually be on the golf course and have no other thought except playing golf again. No other thought -- when I bend down to repair a pitch mark I can get back up again or if I bend down to pick up some piece of twig around my ball, I can get back up again without having to walk 40 yards and get my hip back into place again. You guys never knew what was going on and I wasn't -- when I putted poorly, that was probably a lot to do with it because I didn't care. All I wanted to do was just get off there because my mind wasn't focusing in on the actual putt. Even though I was trying to, I couldn't. That has a lot to do with it. There is going to be days when I am going to putt poorly or not putt well, but at the end of the day, I put a lot -- put all of my golf, all the bad performances down to this because at the end of the day -- I am not going to say I am never going to play bad again because I probably will do, but at the end of the day, I have got a free mind again. You can't believe what it is like to be out there doing the things like this again or just sitting, like I have said to you, just sitting here, so you can -- when I putt badly, I really truly believe that that was part of the problem. Wasn't all the problem, but it was part of the problem.
Q. Did you get your distance back? Is that one of the big things that has happened since your surgery?
GREG NORMAN: Well, I think I have got some distance back because I can rotate into it. I think it will be a little bit -- I should be able to get a bit more length out of my game - the more I get more confidence in it; the more I turn into it. My swing should get a little better as time goes by for that reason. So yeah, I hope. I would imagine it would do.
Q. In 1989 or 1990 the year you won it, I remember I followed you on that 9th hole where you made that run on the back. You hit 14 with a driver and a 4-iron. Are those days ever coming back?
GREG NORMAN: Oh, God (laughs) I don't know. Can you wind back the clock? I don't know. Your body is not as fast as what it used to be, speed-wise and unwinding. That has a lot to do with distance and power. So if I can speed up my rotation of my body coming down, then, yes. If I can't do it, then I am happy as far as I am -- I think I am hitting it pretty far for --
Q. An old fart?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, my age. (laughs).
Q. When is the last time you felt this good physically without hip pain, without shoulder pain?
GREG NORMAN: I bet it's probably seven or eight years.
Q. You talk about how on many shots this was something that was bothering you; you couldn't concentrate on your game. I know you said a few years back you didn't want to talk about Augusta 1996 anymore, but I watched you that day. Your margin for error on the front nine that day was not that bad, it seemed like. Was it the cumulative effect of trying to concentrate through pain as well -- was that part of it too?
GREG NORMAN: No, what you find is if your body -- we just talked about this a little bit about body rotation -- if your body speed and rotation is out because your hip is not allowing you to do it, obviously you are going to be marginally out. That margin at Augusta National is tenfold compared to anywhere else. I am not saying that was the reason why, but there is times when your body will not allow you to do the things exactly the way you want them to be. And controlling of the distance for any good golfer is the most crucial thing. You can actually hit it within a yard of where you want to hit it. That is how the good players play. You know exactly where you want it. If you are missing out on that and if your body speed is not doing the right thing and you can't control it, you are not going to be hitting where you want to.
Q. That had to add to the mental toll of what you experienced at that point?
GREG NORMAN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when players play poorly, I think you will find that their distance control is out; playing is really not out, but their distance control is out. That is when we all get into trouble.
Q. Ernie finished second in a few majors in a row. Have you had any discussions with him about keeping his optimism and enthusiasm?
GREG NORMAN: No, not at all. I haven't seen Ernie all year really. Haven't had a chance to talk to him and I don't think -- I don't think we would ever even talk about something like that. I don't think that -- I don't think it is something he wants to bring up and it is not something I want to bring up. (laughter).
Q. But if he finishes second in the PGA they won't be talking to you again.
GREG NORMAN: Well, that is true. I hope he finishes second at the PGA.
Q. Greg, because this is a Nicklaus course and Valhalla is one too, was that part of the decision process or not?
GREG NORMAN: No, not at all. No.
LEE PATTERSON: Thank you.
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