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August 3, 2005

Greg Norman


GREG NORMAN: Obviously the whole reason why I wanted to come back or have the surgery was to come back and play the British Open. I was hoping to try and come back a little bit earlier than that, but we really couldn't get to it really was pushing the envelope too hard.

But at the end of the day I played at the British Open and I started hitting balls about ten days before that, so my rehab from the back surgery was very successful. I pushed myself pretty hard to get myself back to the British Open, and obviously when I went there I started really enjoying the game of golf a lot more because I was playing without pain. I'd walk off the golf course feeling a bit more relaxed and comfortable than I had done for the last six or seven years, and I'll play next week, and I still pretty much feel the same way here, which is the fourth week in a row. I haven't done that in a long period of time, so I have to make sure I keep my concentration and my enthusiasm as high as I can.

Q. Is the fourth week in a row a strain on you physically or not?

GREG NORMAN: Oh, no. Physically I feel like I've been playing a lot of golf. I'm going to keep my expectations down as much as I can. Coming back from surgery, I haven't really been playing very intense competitive golf in five or six years.

Q. When did you last play four in a row, do you remember?

GREG NORMAN: I don't know, but I'll be playing five in a row next week.

Q. How much does it mean to you to play in a tournament like this that encourages golfers to be impressive?

GREG NORMAN: I think it's a unique format, one that I enjoy. They're playing a game a little bit differently here. 10, you don't want to take a double bogey and really ruin your day or something like that, so they are saying, okay, 4 is a good score, but then there's other holes that are just green lights. The short par 4 you can hit drivers and hopefully have 80 yards to the green or 60 yards or whatever. I do, anyway. My philosophy is just go at it. The whole idea is make as many birdies as you can.

Q. Without getting too technical about the back, could you explain what did they do and when did you finally say I've got to do this, get this done?

GREG NORMAN: I knew I had to get something done when I was over in Dubai. I was having a lot of trouble walking, and I went to the 1st tee on Thursday morning, very early tee time, and I couldn't put my pitching wedge on the ground because I had so much pain going down my leg. I went into the rehab trailer there and the guy couldn't do anything. I was spasmed up, locked up, couldn't move it.

So I got on the plane and I made a decision that I had to either quit the game of golf or have surgery. If I quit golf I would still have pain but I could get through life with some pain.

I decided to get back on the doctor trail and go see the four doctors that I had seen before and get a little validation on what they thought, go through the whole process again, which took about three weeks, and then I just made the decision. Went to Dr. Maroon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He works for the Pittsburgh Steelers and I'm a Steelers fan and it worked out great, so I get Steelers tickets for the rest of my life (laughter).

Q. Over how long had this problem developed?

GREG NORMAN: The surgery was a laminectomy. It's the two nerve canals, I had a stress fracture on the right side of my L5 and I had basically edema in my L5 around the nerve canals. I was getting pain down the back of my right leg and the top of my right leg all the way down sometimes into my right toe.

Basically they make a very small incision right on the right of my spine. They don't cut any muscle, they pull the muscle off the spine and they work with a drill and clippers, and they basically Roto Rooter around the nerve canal. It's really microsurgery, and I've got a video of it; that's why I'm very confident in what I'm talking about.

What he does is he actually uses a little bit of a like a clipper and he pulls the nerve aside and drills around it until he opens up the nerve canal. When the nerve canal opens up I've got freedom because it doesn't pinch on my back.

It was 100 percent successful. I had a couple other problems on my back but he didn't want to operate on it at that time because they were manageable. There's no point in doing double surgery in one day.

Q. What was the date of that surgery?

GREG NORMAN: End of March or April. I can't remember.

Q. It was March, I've got the release.


Q. When did you feel like you started really free swinging again?

GREG NORMAN: It felt great when I woke up in the recovery room. It was a two and a half hour surgery, and when I woke up in the recovery room, the first thing I did was wiggle the toes on my right foot, figured I wasn't paralyzed so that was a thumbs up. I walked out in the hallway after the recovery room wake up and I had no pain. Right there I knew I wouldn't have pain when I hit a golf ball again.

And then when I started rehabbing, I started noticing I could do more with my hip action, with the rotation of the hip, my stabilization was stronger. I had a lot of atrophy in my right leg that had already started, so I caught that at the right time so I wasn't losing my muscle strength there.

As I went through the next ten weeks of rehab, I could feel my body getting stronger, and I knew when I went out there and was hitting balls, my rotation was like it was in the 70s and 80s, and to me it was like, "welcome back."

When I was at St. Andrews, a couple of drives I hit there, I went at it, hit them 390, 395, so the ball was releasing well but it's still hard to get it that far, and I've just had positive feedback ever since.

Q. When you talk so some of the young Australian players on the Tour they all point to you (inaudible).

GREG NORMAN: They're all great players, number one. Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby are probably the older of their group. I guess they're in their low 30s. And then you've got the kids in their 20s, you've got the Hensbys of the world and Scott Hends of the world, those kids, so I put them all in a wonderful barrel because they're definitely the epitome of what Australian golf is all about. They've got a really good attitude, they appreciate where they are in life, they appreciate the fact they're over here playing golf and making a lot of money.

One of them is going to come along and win a major and then keep going and keep going and that's it. You look at the success rate of some of the players, you've obviously got to look at Adam Scott because he's probably got a better strike than some of the other guys; even Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby four or five years ago really carried the flag tremendously well, so the torch is going to get handed back and forth. They're a great group of guys, and I'd love to help them wherever and whenever I possibly can, and I have done that for a few of them.

Q. You bought quite a bit of land in northwest Colorado. Can you tell us roughly how much it is and how much time you're spending there?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I've had a ranch out there for about nine or ten years now and I just added onto it the last 12 months. There was a piece of property that came for sale, a large contiguous piece of property, and it had a large lodge on it which helped us because we were thinking about building a house. I was using it for fishing, hunting, get away with the guys type of deal, and now the property is probably up around 13,000 and a half, 14,000 acres, something like that, and we've got quite a bit of mileage on the White River. After the PGA we'll go up there until January is what we do.

Q. You're going to play five in a row. What do you see for your schedule say next year?

GREG NORMAN: I'm not looking that far ahead. I mean, I want to see how I come out I need to go back and see my doctor. He was with me at the British Senior just to see how I was doing. I'm not going to make one comment about next year, we'll wait and see. If I feel like the way I feel now, yes, I want to go back and play golf next year. If something happens between now and the end of next year, then I won't be back. But I'm counting on playing all the senior major championships next year and probably some regular Tour events, one or two in Australia, and that's it.

Q. So the brand new Greg Norman with his brand new back, is this a golf tournament where Greg Norman could go, "okay, boys, I'm back"?

GREG NORMAN: Myself personally after the last couple of weeks, yeah, because we played a very good couple of golf courses. Getting away from St. Andrews, I thought Royal Aberdeen was a tougher golf course than St. Andrews was. I don't know if any of you have ever been to Scotland to play golf, but Royal Aberdeen is one of the gems. It's one of the gems to go play. So it was a tough little golf course, and the conditions we played on Thursday, I put in the top ten hardest conditions of my career.

When I'm saying on that is because I felt if you can deal with those conditions on those golf courses, on that type of golf course, and then go to NCR, which wasn't a short golf course at all, probably played with the same length as what this one is here, I'm still getting it out there long enough to outdrive the majority of the guys. If you can still hit it good and make a few putts, then heck, why not?

Q. One more question on your back. Do you know what actually caused it?

GREG NORMAN: Yeah, 4 and a half million golf balls (laughter). That's what my doctor and I figured. He asked me because he's not a golfer and he didn't understand golf. He knows football and he's a neurospinal specialist. He's never played golf in his life. I tried to explain to him where the rotation is because he knew the damage in my spine, and he said how many golf balls do you hit, and we guesstimated about 4 and a half million from the time I started until now. That's why my back is screwed up.

Q. Have you had a chance to use your AARP card yet?

GREG NORMAN: I said to my wife, let's go down to happy hour cocktails down the road and get a discount. No, I haven't used it yet, and hopefully one day I don't use it at all, but yeah, I do have it.

Q. You don't feel like a senior, do you? You were quoted as saying you're still a junior, right?

GREG NORMAN: Well, to me, any time I went out and played a senior golf tournament the last two weeks, I just treated it like a regular tournament. I mentally dropped the Sr. in front of the championship and just went out and played.

I personally don't feel like I'm 50 years old, but I've done a very good job of making sure I don't feel older than what I am. I feel like I'm in my low 40s to tell you the truth, and I'll stack up myself against a lot of guys fitness wise, and I think that's what the secret is. Keep yourself mentally solid, physically strong, and you can pretty much do whatever you want to do.

Fortunately for my life I've got a lot of great chances to make and I've had a lot of good things happen.

Q. You've had a chance to look at the Tour overall as an outsider at some point. Can you talk about what you see now happening with Tiger and Vijay and kind of really just distancing themselves from some of the rest of the players?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I think rivalry is great for any sport. This one is turning out to be an interesting and intense rivalry to say the least. I would like to see probably three or four other guys step up to the plate right now. What is Tiger, turning 30 and Vijay is 40? Vijay is not going to keep this up for another ten years, probably not even another five years. You need these 20 year old something kids to come along, like between 22 and 26, to really start stepping up to the plate and be one of the rivals.

There was about four or five of us that always hedged against each other no matter where we were, then you look at Jack and Arnold, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, there's always a group of guys that really carry the intensity of golf all around the world.

Right now, Ernie is obviously injured from what I hear, I think he's out for the rest of the year, so that's not good for him. Then Retief, but Phil, but really the intensity seems like it's more on Tiger Vijay Tiger Vijay. Like I said, I'd like to see about three or four guys, the younger kids, step up to the plate because it's important for the game of golf. You need the characters, you need somebody with a little bit of charisma, a little bit of glare in his eye or something like that and have no fear about who you're playing golf against, just get up there and go win.

Sometimes when you win, sometimes you get beaten bad, too, but you've got to step up and throw them right back on the wall. I love watching all other sports are like that, and golf needs to continue to be that way.

Q. Golf has been your No. 1 priority for many years. Talk about before, during and after the back surgery. Has your perspective changed on life about anything, or where is golf right now?

GREG NORMAN: I think golf is secondary now. I think from my perspective, I woke up to that about five years ago, that golf wasn't everything. Unfortunately when you go through if you want to be the best you can possibly be and that takes you to the top of the ladder, you sacrifice, and that sacrifice comes with your family and friends, number one, and it comes with your body, number two, and it comes with life, number three.

As you get older, you know, I love being home on the weekends. Almost 20 years of my life I was away for 40 weekends of my life. When you look back you think, "I loved doing that, I loved teeing off at 2:00 o'clock every Sunday afternoon." But now I look at it differently and say I still love doing that, but I like doing this stuff over here more, being home, spending time doing things I like to do, going to my place in Colorado that you never experienced for 25, 30 years of your life.

I think all sport is like that. We do have to pay the supreme sacrifice to get to being the best you can. Tiger is going to go through it, too. He's only young but he's going to wake up one day and say there's other things to life. He's doing that, enjoying himself more, and everybody starts to do that, and it's just an interesting exercise to go through. The quicker you can realize that golf is not everything, the better your golf will probably be because you take your mind off of it.

So for me right now, golf is secondary. My family is primary because I spent so much time away from them for 25, 30 years. Then comes business because I really do love business because that's going to be my back nine. I'm not going to be playing golf when I'm 65. I really want the last ten years to take place where I can have a wonderful business career and choices to make in the next five or ten years.

Will I come out and play because I love it, absolutely. But do I want to come out here and play 25 weeks a year, 30 weeks a year, absolutely not. I'm happy doing about 10 or 12 and that's it.

Q. You spoke about some of the young kids coming up and playing now posing a challenge to Tiger and so forth. Have you been around enough lately to name a couple of the young ones, particularly Australians, Hensby, who you think may do it?

GREG NORMAN: I think there's four or five, Scott Hend, Hensby, Adam Scott, Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby. I'm not sure how old Stuart is, but I'm sure he's probably early 30s, and Robert is probably a little older than him, probably mid 30s. They are the real guys who have been out here for 10 or 12 or 13 years, they carry the weight. There's five guys right there.

I've been back in Australia looking through my Foundation seeing players back there who really look like they're better than all the players out here. It's just a matter of those guys getting the confidence to say, "I belong out there." I want to be with them and I want to be better than all those guys. That's the only way they can get here.

Q. A little bit about this tournament and what it means to play in this tournament, what Mr. Vickers has done. Where do you see it going in the future? Do you think it might be working into being a nice World Golf Championship event?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I think every player in this locker room, probably the majority of the spectators that came out here, thank Jack Vickers tremendously. There may be one other golf tournament outside the major championships where the players would say we would be treated better, and that's probably the TPC. Every other golf tournament comes second to this one, the treatment, the attitude of the members, the attitude of the spectators. When you walk in the locker room here, you feel like you've been a member for 25 years. They remember your name, they remember what type of drink you had, what type of food you like. That's special. It comes from the top down.

Every great corporation has a great leader, and The International has a great leader in Jack Vickers, and when Jack called me up, I was questioning whether I would come here because I knew it was going to be four weeks in a row, and I was questioning, well, with my condition is it the right thing to do to push my back that hard, but when Jack called me up, I said, "Jack, I'll be there."

I put him in the top five of all the men that I know that I have the most respect for. He's a consummate gentleman, he's done a tremendous job of supporting our game and the game of golf, and I feel for him in lots of ways because I think he's probably felt a lot of frustration because he's put a lot into this event, a lot of money into this event, and in my own personal opinion, okay, because I respect the man, I would have liked to have seen him get a little better positioning with his event and a little better support from the players, some of the top players in this event because he deserves it.

That's not slighting all the other tournaments, either, because we have tremendous people out there who represent golf events on the PGA TOUR. But I guess I'm a little biased because I like the guy and I know him very, very well, and would Jack like to see this at a higher echelon of events, absolutely. Does he deserve it, absolutely, he deserves it. Time will tell.

He's 80 years old and he's had a great career, a great life, and hopefully in the next whatever, decade and a half, he can get this International up to the stature that he probably envisioned 20 years ago.

Q. You are one of a handful of guys who played against Jack Nicklaus when he was going pretty well, same being with Tiger Woods. If they were both in their prime and they had a 36 hole match play, how do you think that would play out?

GREG NORMAN: I would say with the technology we have today, with the equipment, if you put that in Jack Nicklaus's hands, he'd be a superior golfer than Tiger Woods. You've got to remember the equipment Jack used in those days were balata balls that never went anywhere, you had to smash the hell out of it to get anything out of it, and we played long golf courses then, we played 7,100 yard golf courses. So put the technology that we have nowadays in Nicklaus' hands 30 years ago, he'd eat him for lunch. He'd be hitting the golf ball probably well, he used to hit the golf ball 280, 300 in those days, so just add 25 percent on top of that, and that's what he'd be doing.

Now, Tiger hits the ball a long way, no question, but Tiger never used a balata golf ball, a Mizuno driver, Tiger never used a 1 iron. Those are the things that make a tremendous difference. If you actually go back now and I pull out my driver and hit this golf ball now, you can't hit it. It doesn't go anywhere. You need the technology, the golf ball and the metal and the head and all the technology that goes with it to get the golf ball to do what it does, and that's why I'd say Jack. Apples to apples, equal equipment, everybody would say go the other way, give Tiger a balata golf ball and all of that and let him make the adjustments, I think still Jack would beat him. That's apples to apples.

End of FastScripts.

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