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April 9, 2002

Greg Norman


RONALD TOWNSEND: Good afternoon, and welcome to Greg Norman. This is his 22nd appearance and he has been runner-up three time-shared has won 28 PGA TOUR titles, was the British Open champ a couple times, and Greg, we'd like to take your questions.

Q. Looks like you're going to be with some long hitters tomorrow?

GREG NORMAN: I am? I was with some long hitters today.

Q. Nothing unusual, I guess.

GREG NORMAN: Nothing unusual.

Q. The significance of power has been important on this golf course, has that changed any, and if you can explain why it's so significant to be a powerful player?

GREG NORMAN: At this golf course or any golf course you play, the power comes in as a big factor on your par 5s. If you get on the par 5s where you can reach them and especially if you can reach them with a long iron to sometimes a middle iron you know you've got a fair chance of picking up four shots every day.

Now if you can walk to the first tee feeling that comfortable with your ability to do that, then you are shooting on a par 68 golf course. Over the history of time with the game of golf, the guys that have hit it the longest and straightest have always benefitted the most out of that game. So power is an essential and crucial part of being a successful golfer.

What's happened here at Augusta National is they have tried to bring the power and accuracy back into the game. For many, many years, the guys here could just wing it, hit it as hard as they can, as high as they can and had a huge advantage around this golf course, and mainly the reason why is, the difference between a 7-iron and a pitching wedge is dramatic. The difference between a 6-iron and an 8-iron is not as dramatic, so the longer hitters who are hitting pitching wedges and sand wedges to some of these greens are having a huge advantage over the guys who are hitting 7-irons and 8-irons, now the long hitters hitting 8-irons and the shorter hitters are hitting 6- and 7-irons that's not that big of a difference.

They have done a tremendous job here of making sure the power hitter, when he walks on the tee, making him think how he's going to hit the shots. Many, many of the times on golf courses prior to 2002, you didn't have to have that worry. There were a few you had to be concerned about, but there were not that many. So what they have tried to do here is balance the golf course out, make sure that the power hitters had to think about what they are doing on the tee.

In relation to time and technology, for example, now, I'm hitting the clubs that I used to, come close to hitting the clubs into the greens back in the early 80s. So, yes, I've gotten older, but the way they have set up the golf course is hitting 6-irons into 18, hitting 7-irons into 18. That's what we used to do in the early 80s.

Q. Is the golf course, are you then in favor of the changes?

GREG NORMAN: I think they are 110%. I think they have done a tremendous job with it. The way they have jelled in the changes without making it look like it's a dramatic change, you can hardly tell them, to tell you the truth. The balance of the location of the tees, where they put the tree, tees for shot-making process, it makes you think about where you have to go. Tremendous job. It's not the easiest job in the world to come from a designer standpoint or a construction individual standpoint to change a golf course for one week a year, could challenge the guys that hit the ball 320 yards. I think that they have delivered the message here.

Mother Nature is going to be the be-all and the end-all here this week. If it rains, then obviously the longer hitters really do have that much more of an advantage because the ball won't release. As the golf course is now, I think it's a very balanced golf course because the guys who hit the ball, which is the majority of them, hit the ball between 280 and 290. They are very much in the thick of things this week. Whereas last year, it wasn't the case.

So they have balanced it out very well.

Q. What is your mindset coming in this week, and do you see these changes helping or hurting your chances?

GREG NORMAN: My chances personally? I like it if the golf course stays the way it is. If we get a deluge and the ball plugs and doesn't roll, different story. I mean, I don't carry the ball as long as what some of these young kids do. My carry is about 270 and you would like to get a little roll so you get up around the 295 mark.

If the conditions stay like this, I feel pretty comfortable about it, actually. Coming in here, I feel lucky, blessed and honored, quite honestly. I never expected to be here. The house that I've rented for many, many a year I never even rented it, so I had to go find another place, which is not an easy task because of the late notice. So I feel very fortunate. I'm enjoying every step. I'm kind of like going back 20 years ago.

Q. Did you do anything different at all, have you made any changes at all when you come here, your approach here?

GREG NORMAN: I played a practice round. I wasn't planning on playing much golf because of my criteria with the PGA TOUR now, I don't have an opportunity of playing as much golf as I would like, and I was, pre-invitation, was planning on playing most of my golf around about June, July, August. And when the invitation came, I thought, well, I'd better go out there and play a little more golf at the start of the year, at Doral and Bay Hill and the TPC.

I feel very, very comfortable about where I stand right now with my game.

Q. Annually there are all of these talks about changes. Is this place any different than when it was when you first got here, either the course or just the atmosphere?

GREG NORMAN: I think the atmosphere is the same, if not probably a little better. I think that there's more, mystique is not the right word, but there is a greater atmosphere now, 20 years down the line than when I first came here. Seems like there's more attention put on the Masters now. Is that because of the changes? Is that because of technology? Is that because of Tiger Woods? Is that because of -- probably all of the above, to tell you the truth. Seems like there's a lot more notice put on the Masters. It's the first major and has always been the first major. But the changes this year have definitely stimulated the interest a lot higher than what it was the previous years.

So, from an atmosphere standpoint, I think it's improved and improved for the better. From a playability standpoint, I think they have just had to keep up with time, technology and the power of these younger players.

Q. I know we touched on this yesterday, but did you at any point think that, considering what you've put into the PGA TOUR, that you may have been granted an exemption because of the fact that you did not play that last tournament last year and you may have still been a member?

GREG NORMAN: I don't know what goes on behind the scenes. I don't go out there and ask for any special exemption or a special this or a special that. I think that's up to the powers to be to make their decision on that. I know what I've given to the game and I know what I've enjoyed in giving to the game.

I think I've been very balanced on where I've played all over the world, so decisions like that come from the administration. I don't seek them.

Q. How does it make you feel in terms of, if you look at it, at 47, an acknowledgment of what you have done for the PGA TOUR?

GREG NORMAN: I mean, quite honestly, I would like to have played more this year. Won't be able to, but I'd like to play more.

I've always been comfortable with my schedule being around about 15 golf tournaments here in the States. Some years I've played 20 and some years I've played exactly 15. So it's always been around that number. Right now, I can't. So I'm disappointed I can't, to tell you the truth, because, you know, I still enjoy it. And I don't want this to be kind of like the reason that my enjoyment for the game wanes away because, that's why I said yesterday, I'll find somewhere to go play because I'm still keen to play. If I don't want to go looking for somewhere to play and then I'll have to make a decision on what I want to do.

Q. Speaking of decisions by the powers that be, have you got any opinion about this year, with Augusta National asking three of the former champions not to play? Do you have any opinion on that? Do you think that takes away from the mystique of this tournament? That was always the thing, that if you wanted you could always comeback and play.

GREG NORMAN: Sure, I understand that. But look on the other side of the coin. This event here is the most unique event in the word. It's the mechanism of the game of golf, quite honestly. Everything is organized and respected around here. So you've got to respect their decisions. I mean, that's what they are. They decide. They obviously just don't make a snap decision. They think about it. Look at what they have done with the golf course.

The powers that be do a tremendous job of being very analytical and weighing tough decisions. But no matter what decision you make, being Augusta National, somebody is going to think it's not the right decision. So they made what they thought was the right decision and you have to respect them for that.

Q. Do you think the changes they made to 18, in particular, has made it a more worthy finishing hole?

GREG NORMAN: No question. I think you'll find 18 now will get itself up there in the Top-10, 12 finishing holes in the world. And I think that's -- you know, when you see a guy hitting a 71-yard pitching wedge or sand wedge or whatever to the 18th hole in a major championship, it doesn't do anything for you, it doesn't do anything for the game. Given, the guy hits the ball a long way, but a lot of guys were hitting 70-yard shots. It wasn't just one guy last year; it was a lot of guys doing it.

So, you want the championship to come down where the guy has to execute and hit four perfect shots, well if it's three for a birdie, great. But he's got to hit a great drive and great second shot and hit two good putts.

Now the emphasis is on where you hit your driver and where you want to hit your second shot. That green is not an easy green to approach under the conditions right now, and you have to be very, very meticulous on what you want to do. So that's why I say eventually it will work it's way up there with the stats over a period of time being one of the great finishing hole.

Q. What sort of advice can you give Adam Scott playing his first Masters this year?

GREG NORMAN: I don't, he made about eight birdies today. (Laughter.)

He didn't seek any. He was in a very good mindset. I'm not going to offer anything unless he asks. He was very comfortable. He drove the ball magnificently today. He putted fantastic. And as long as he just keeps going with that, he's got a very, very good, strong chance of winning this championship. He's the type of player that hits the ball extremely high, hit's it hard and he drives it very, very straight. So if his game is there like it is now, don't count him out.

Q. You played in '81 the first year of the bentgreens. I think you played with Nicklaus and Watson on the weekend, and Tom on the ninth hole actually putted the ball off the green and still went on to win. Do you remember the attitude of the veteran players about a drastic change then as you put yourself in their shoes now and relating to how you were in '81; so can an Adam Scott be on a more level ground than the veterans?

GREG NORMAN: I think more so than in those days. The younger players are more grounded, they have more experience. They have a great entourage with them from coaches to nutritionists, trainers, sports psychologists, so they come out in a very, very balanced demeanor when they walk out on that first tee.

Back in the '80, I just came out with my wife, myself, my caddy and I hit the shots, so you had to balance yourself out. So I think the players now are much better prepared at a younger age than what we were at 21, and I can't answer that for any of the guys before myself, like Jack or the guys of that era. But I think they are.

Q. Do you remember the attitude of the veterans who had not seen the bentgrass surfaces in '81, how it struck them? Was there any prevailing sentiment?

GREG NORMAN: I think the biggest comment, if my memory is right, is the change to 13; they couldn't understand that. They thought the 13th green was, under the bermuda surface, the green was very, very quick, a lot more demanding than it was with all of the slopes that we had on it, that we have on it now. So I do remember that being probably the most talked about, and the only thing that we talked about -- or they talked about.

Q. Do you feel maybe the PGA TOUR is wasting some valuable commodity in some of these 45- to 50-year-old players that don't have a lot of places to play, and is maybe the idea of reducing the age of the Senior Tour a viable option?

GREG NORMAN: I think reducing the age of the Senior Tour is not right. I think that would be a very hard call on the guys who are 48, 49, and then all of a sudden guys are 45 coming in. I think that would be a tough call.

First part of your question, I think yes, I think they are doing a bit of a disservice to the players who have put their time and effort in for 20 years, 25 years whatever the time period is, and I think the guys feel like they are just passing through. They feel like, I personally feel like, that I'm just passing through the PGA TOUR. It doesn't matter what you did or what you did to promote the game of golf. It seems like they made us instead of we made them type philosophy. And it's really a weak feeling. It's a hollow feeling, to tell you the truth, because the game of golf is made up of the players. Our tour is made up of the players, and I can sit here and name a lot of great players in the 40s now who are wondering what to do. A lot of the guys have not done what I've done, which is establish something else to do outside the game of golf, which keeps my attention, and I feel that a lot of players are extremely -- the known players who are in their 40s, but guys who are 65, 70, but missed out on all that. I think they deserve just as much, whatever happened in the game, for what we get now, and they have not received one bit of benefit from it, and I think that's pretty sad.

Q. Everyone seems to be expecting great things of Charles Howell, how much do you think he's capable of in the big picture?

GREG NORMAN: How much is he capable? How long is a piece of string for Charlie Howell? It's as long as he wants it to be.

He's got a very well balanced demeanor on the game of golf. His approach to it, his attitude towards it and his attitude within himself probably is good as I've seen. These young kids are extremely well balanced. They don't -- I touched on it before over here, they don't seem like they get in their way, their own way. They are very patient. They know they have got a long-term time period ahead of them, and, you know, that is just good training, is what it is. And Charlie Howell will breakthrough and when Charlie breaks through, look out, because the guys got -- I played with the guy today. I can't believe how far the guy can hit the golf ball with his size. I mean, he just hits it out there 350 yards, 340 yards quite effortlessly, actually, and that is a magnificent effort to be able to do that when you're 145 pounds ringing wet. The guy has got to run around the shower to get wet. (Laughter.)

Q. You've been an aggressive player your whole career. Can you relate to what Phil Mickelson is going through, wondering whether he's too aggressive at certain times?

GREG NORMAN: I hope he never changes. I think that's just being under the microscope, people like to see that. They make a lot of -- they make a point of making it a point. Phil Mickelson's nature is Phil Mickelson's nature. You can't change that.

I probably would have won more tournaments if I wasn't that way, but you know what, I would not be the same guy as I am right now. I enjoy being the person I am because of who I am. And Phil is the same way. The risk/reward is there and when it happens he's great and when it doesn't happen, he looks terrible. Arnold Palmer. You could go to Arnold, how many majors Arnold won, eight or nine, something like that, he probably could have won 20 if he wasn't so aggressive, but Arnold was Arnold. And the way Arnold changed the game of golf was he was that way. If Arnold was conservative and played with such a methodical, middle of the green, we probably would not be where we are right now if Arnold had that approach.

So I hope Phil doesn't change. He's going to win his share of tournaments and he's going to lose his share of tournaments, and that's it.

Q. Given that point, do you think that you might be able to say quite the same thing if you had not won majors, if you had not converted your ability and talent into major successes, how relevant is that lack in Phil Mickelson's case, in terms of how, or if he does become a little more conservative possibly?

GREG NORMAN: I follow what you're saying. In the major championships, I haven't seen him 5-putting in major championships. I've seen him five putting at the TPC. Maybe his philosophy is a little bit different when he approaches a major championship, I don't know. But I would doubt that it does.

Yeah, it's always a lot easier if you've done it. I can say, "Well, I've done it, so it worked." At the same time, even though you've done it, I could have said there's a few situations in my case where if I was a little bit more conservative, I probably would have had a very good chance of winning more championships than what I did.

Q. Including this one.

GREG NORMAN: Including this one. Exactly right.

Q. One of the things, the idea of a Masters golf ball, where do you stand on that, having a standardized ball?

GREG NORMAN: I think that's a great idea. And I made comment about that to Mr. Johnson in a conversation we had just recently. I think if anybody can do it, the Masters can do it.

You invite, how many people are playing this week, 93? 89? You invite 89 guys, you give them a set of hickory-shafted golf clubs and a gutta ball and say, "Here you go, anybody want to play the Masters", I guarantee you 89 guys will stand up and play at Augusta.

I think it would be a great benchmark test, because my belief, until the game is -- you do not want to disrupt the masses. We don't want to disrupt 25 million American golfers who play the game of golf, which are in this country. And so you need them to be able to enjoy the fruits of technology, getting their handicap down. They would be nothing better than a 15-handicapper -- he thinks it's wonderful. Now I think it's a case in point that should be studied and analyzed where professional golfers -- take the baseball bat from college baseball to professional baseball, there are changes, there are things that affect equipment when you go from an amateur to a professional.

So there is a good point. So if you went to every manufacturer, and I represent Titleist, and Titleist was given the specifications of the ball that was required to be played at Augusta National just for the Masters tournament, you say, okay, you play it and every manufacturer makes that ball. If I was a manufacturer, I think I would love it because I would sell more golf balls. Because Joe Blow would love to buy a golf ball that Tiger Woods played with the specifications. So he's going to buy the one that didn't go longer and then the Augusta golf ball. I think there's a lot of merit to it, and I would support it.

And then what would happen, and my true belief; that a lot of these other administrations who are probably a little bit afraid to get into the fray of all this might jump on the bandwagon and say, yes, finally somebody has done it and yes let's go ahead and do it and go.

So, something's got to be done. Just look at technology for the last six years, the ball is going ten percent further. 300 yards now is 330. Now, physics are going to come into effect soon, the ball can only go so far, but there's probably about another six to ten percent left. 330 plus ten percent, you're talking 360. How do you change Augusta National in six, seven years time for a guy that hits the ball 360 yards?

You sit there and look at both sides of it, but you cannot disrupt what the game of golf is about, and that's for the masses. You cannot disrupt that. You've got to be able to allow the people out there who support us all, everybody who plays the game that is in the game, you can't disrupt them, so there's got to be a delicate balance with it. And the way you can look at it is for the professionals, give us a set of rules that are a little bit more stringent and a little bit more imaginable. I mean, look at the Callaway driver. R&A says it's okay, USGA says no. There's a lot of imbalance there, which is sad, really because we don't need it. I'd like to see it standardized for the professionals right across the board.

Q. Phil Mickelson was in here earlier and he said one of the problems that he has with it is things like spin rates and launch angles are specific to him; he plays a ball that helps him with his spin rate, with his launch angle, a standardized ball maybe is not going to help him. Maybe it will spin too much, maybe it's not going to carry as much and he next guy will maybe have a similar, maybe like it more and another guy dislike it. How do you manage that?

GREG NORMAN: It's very easy. A player can get a golf ball made like he gets his suit made. Get them custom fit. When it's a standardized golf ball -- you're talking about the specifics of a golf ball, spin rate. You can go to a launch monitor and you can find your right spin rate and you can still marry everything up to the way you swing the golf club. Phil Mickelson will still be that much longer than everybody else, and Tiger Woods will be that much longer than everybody else. It's just bringing back the distance. The ratio to the long hitters to the short hitter will still be there, so there's no real disparity. It's just the protection of the golf courses because, you know, here's a perfect example. Where would Augusta National find another 300 yards to add onto it? I mean, my gosh, you go to other golf courses that we built, how do you build a golf course 7,000 yards long that suits everybody else who doesn't play there, but plays 51 weeks there and we come in for one week a year and it's very, very difficult, very, very costly.

The domino effect on this thing is tremendous, right across the board. It's got to be looked at in a very, very professional and intelligent manner and the right answer will come out with all of these powers to be and the great minds that are in the game.

RONALD TOWNSEND: Thank you all very much. Thank you, Greg and good luck this week.

GREG NORMAN: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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