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July 27, 2005

Greg Norman


RAND JERRIS: It's our pleasure to welcome Greg Norman to the interview room this afternoon. Greg is playing in his first United States Senior Open this week.

Greg, maybe you can start us off with some comments about what it means to you to be here and playing in a Senior Open.

GREG NORMAN: Well, I think any national championship is an extremely important championship to play in. I told Tom Meeks the other day that I didn't have the opportunity to win one of the regular U.S. Open championships and hopefully I'll have an opportunity to win the U.S. Senior Open Championship.

I think it's great the opportunity is given to all of us really to come out and play major championships after the real major championships have gone beyond us. It's a pleasure to be here. Obviously it's my second senior event, and I'm tired obviously coming back from the British Open, from surgery, which was priority No. 1, did that successfully, and each week since the British Open I've felt in pretty good control of my golf game.

Obviously NCR is a totally different golf course than what we've played in the last couple of weeks, St. Andrews and Royal Aberdeen, and it's a great golf course in its own right. It's great to get back and visualize and picture shots where you're spinning the ball back instead of having the ball go forward 180 feet.

Q. How do you feel about the rain that happened this morning, and will that change the character of the golf course and were you happy to see the rain?

GREG NORMAN: The golf course changes obviously overnight. When I played yesterday the wind was from the southwest and the greens and fairways were much firmer and much faster, just a different golf course. I don't know whether the golf course is going to play this way tomorrow morning or it's going to play differently as the week goes by. That's why we have practice rounds. We make the adjustments as we go around, try and find out how to play the golf course the best we can. No big deal, it's nothing to me, it's the same for me as it is to everybody and we're all trying to understand it.

Q. You've said that you don't plan to play a lot of senior golf, but I'm wondering if you have more weeks like as competitive as you are, if you have more weeks like last week, if you might not be able to help yourself.

GREG NORMAN: If I play more golf and I feel competitive it's going to be on the regular Tour. I don't see myself playing or adjusting my schedule for senior tournament golf. I'm more of a four round type of individual. I like playing four rounds of golf, not three rounds of golf. I think from my perspective, if my competitive level in my game is solid like it's starting to show signs of, I'd much rather go out there and play the regular Tour because I still hit the ball long enough. I feel like I'm above average than most players, even on the regular Tour, so why not get out there and compete against those guys, as well.

You know, like I said, I'm not going to adjust my Senior Tour schedule. I'm only playing the major championships this year, and next year I don't even have any Senior Tour events on my schedule. I have two very good friends who sponsor golf tournaments on the Senior Tour, and I may consider playing those next year, but that would be the only two that I would consider doing outside the major championships.

Q. How many regular Tour events do you have on your schedule next year?

GREG NORMAN: I would imagine it's going to be like 12 tournaments, is what I plan on playing. I kind of enjoy doing a lot of other things. Even though I'm excited about playing golf again, even though I know my back is strong enough to hold up, this next series of weeks, I'm playing actually six out of seven weeks, so it's going to be an extreme test on my back because I'm hitting balls every day, I'm flying on a Monday and still sitting down, so it's going to be a very, very strong test for it.

My doctor who was with me last week at the Senior British Open says, it is what it is. I'm not going to do any more damage to it, it's a matter of trying to strengthen it more and get it into golf condition more than anything else. I'm not afraid of that. It's just the fact that I'm looking forward to just getting out there and really getting my mind back into the game of golf.

I've got a lot of other things that I do, like I said. I'm not interested at all in playing more than 12, 15 tournaments a year on an annual basis because like all the old guys out here on this Tour, we've played golf for nearly 30 years of our lives. Being away for the weekends, and me being the international player that I have been for those 30 years, I've spent a lot more time flying around the world, playing different golf tournaments around the world. I'm kind of enjoying being home, to tell you the truth. Really there's no better feeling than being home on a Saturday and Sunday with your kids and your family and just doing the mundane things that we haven't had the opportunity I haven't done for 30 years. Just sitting back watching football, for example, on a Sunday, just doing nothing, even mowing the lawn, stuff that you've never done. To me I've just really, really found a relaxed, peaceful side of my life and I'm enjoying it.

Q. Do you mow your own lawn?

GREG NORMAN: Every now and then I do, yeah. Not all the time, but every now and then (laughter).

Q. You've talked about how debilitating the back got to your life, not only your golf. How important was it, though, even though your life was so full to get the back back in shape where you could play some good golf rather than go out with the type of golf that you were forced to play?

GREG NORMAN: Well, it means everything to me. When I left Dubai on the Thursday afternoon because I couldn't tee it up on that day back in, I think it was February or March, I actually had a long talk to my wife coming back on the plane, and I said, look, this is really it. I mean, I can actually say goodbye to the game of golf, never hit another golf shot the rest of my life and I'd be happy because I can get back in life without any rotation. I'd still have pain but it wasn't as painful. I said I've got to make a decision here, either have the surgery now and rehab, very hard, not only physically but mentally get myself prepared and wanting to go back and play the game of golf because I've always wanted to play. I've always missed the competition.

But I got extremely frustrated. I hated being on the golf course because I couldn't do what I wanted to do. That was going on for about five or six years. So on the plane coming back, I just made the decision to go see my doctors again, went to four of them, finally decided on the one who I wanted to go to and flew up and had it immediately.

It was the best thing I ever did because now even if I don't play golf anymore, it's just wonderful to wake up in the morning without any pain. It's wonderful for golf course design, when I'm walking a virgin site, walking over boulders, walking over dead fall, dead trees, stuff like that, I used to have a lot of pain and it was very awkward doing that. Now I can go.

So it's really changed everything in my life from a perspective of things that I like to do, horseback riding, mountain bike riding, all those things that I've done in the past that now I can go back and do with zest and gusto. That's why I say I'm very much at peace with myself because I'm finally doing things in life without pain.

People in this room must have back problems, I'm sure some of us do, and it is really, really one of the worst pains and debilitating parts of your body that you can actually have because you really can't do anything in your life when you have it.

Q. I was wondering, you're a guy that really grabs hold of life, fishing and driving fast and diving and everything. When you hit 50 or you hear the term "senior golf," do you have to make some kind of mental adjustment or is that like a big deal to you?

GREG NORMAN: No, it wasn't a big deal for me because I've always been a very physically, in control individual with my body. Outside my back, I've always loved working out, I always felt like I was a little bit stronger and younger than what my actual age was. When I turned 50, I said to myself, well, if this is what it's like turning 50, I can't wait to turn 60 because I still felt very, very mentally and physically good, outside my back surgery.

I'm back obviously, but at the same time, when I came out here to get ready for last week's tournament, all I said to myself was just treat it like another tournament. Just drop the "SNR" in front of every golf tournament. If you treat it like a regular golf tournament, these guys can still play out here, and if you want to put the old man bracket or the senior bracket in front of or behind it, I think that's going to be a sea anchor on you. I try and take the attitude that this is just a regular tournament with regular players and go play and don't even think of the age group.

Q. And 50 doesn't in real life bother you at all?

GREG NORMAN: Didn't bother me at all, no.

Q. Tell me a little bit, now was this stenosis of the back or did you have a vertebrae?

GREG NORMAN: I have actually got three things wrong with me: I had a bone spur at L4 L5, I had decompression of my nerves in L4 L5, I had a stress fracture in my right facet of my L5, and I had a mild well, it was a mild bulging disk. All my problems really were hard disk disease, not soft disk disease. Soft disk disease is like a bulging disk. All mine was the other, so they had to go in there under microsurgery and just decompress the nerve canals, both nerve canals, and L4 L5 had edemas from so much wear and tear. My doctor asked me how many golf balls I had hit in my career. I'm lying there in bed calculating somewhere between four and five million golf balls I had hit to do that on my body. All he did was go in there with like a Roto Rooter and digs around the canal with a very small, diamond tipped drill and opens it up and as soon as I woke up in the recovery room, about a two and a half hour surgery, woke up in the recovery room, first thing I did was wiggle my right toes to see if they weren't paralyzed, and I put a big smile on my face, and he had me walking one hour after I woke up, and I was swimming ten days later. It was just a very aggressive rehab program.

Q. You've alluded to this, this being your first Senior, you've alluded to this, and I know for a few of us in the room who have hit that milestone, it's bittersweet. When you turn 50 or in that 50 range, you get discounts at the hotels, but the downside, somebody has to help you get there.

GREG NORMAN: Yeah, but I got my AARP card. I got that in the mail, and I said, what the hell is this? I can get discounts, right?

Q. There you go. Is the bitter side of it, obviously there is some bitter to it, getting older, the body doesn't work like it used to, but there's a sweet side because you can enjoy life and things, and I relate that to your life and to your golf, as well.

GREG NORMAN: I wouldn't call it bitter. I think it's just sweet. I've always believed my life seems like it's gotten better and better as each decade has gone by. So I don't see any I don't see any bitterness about it.

Q. All good?

GREG NORMAN: It's all good for me, yeah.

Q. How is your game right now after just two weeks, and do you think you've got a shot this week based on where you are?

GREG NORMAN: My game I feel is in extremely good shape. It's in good shape because it's the first time I've been able to rotate into my right hip and actually hit the ball extremely hard when I want to. So that's really given me a tremendous amount of confidence with my iron play, given me a tremendous amount of confidence obviously with my driver. I always thought I was a pretty good driver of the golf ball in my heyday, and I feel like I've got that back again to some degree.

So my game is solid. So that obviously makes me feel confident, that like anybody else in this field, you name them, I feel like I've got the ability to win the golf tournament just as much as they have, and that's the way I'm going to take it. I'm going to take it very slow, not going to my expectations aren't going to be high like I used to have high expectations in the '80s and '90s, just saying, okay, here you are, you're supposed to do it. I'm trying to keep myself very low key and within myself because I've got to take little steps.

The game of golf doesn't come rushing back to you. Last week I made a couple of fundamental mistakes that I probably wouldn't have made in the heat of the battle back when I was in my heyday, and those things have got to come back. You can't flick on a light switch and there it is, so I've got to make sure that I stay patient within myself and just let it happen, and if I do that, I'm going to have a shot. I'm going to be like I said, I'm going to have just as much of a chance as anybody else in this tournament.

Q. You spoke with how appropriate it was that you began your, let's say your 50 and over career with an R & A Championship last week. How important would it be to win a USGA Championship, filling a hole in that place?

GREG NORMAN: Like I said to Tom Meeks yesterday, I've always held the U.S. Open extremely high. Even though I'm an Australian citizen, I've always felt that the U.S. Open is probably in the top two in the world. I always thought the British Open and the U.S. Open were that way, one and two, and it was a hard championship to win.

The USGA has always had this unique ability, I don't care if people look at it now in modern times, now they set up the courses like Pinehurst and Shinnecock, they've done that continually ever since I've played the game of golf. They have this unique ability of testing all aspects of your game, and I've always wanted to win one. I came close enough, you could almost taste it. It didn't happen, so obviously the next best thing for me rather than being called the U.S. Open champion, whether it being reg or senior, beating the same type of guys as 20 years ago. I'd love to put it on my mantle. I think that would be a very fitting start to my old man's career, I guess (laughter).

Q. Sort of following up on that, Greg, where do you think that a golfer's senior achievements fits on somebody's resume, especially somebody like yourself who's done so much already?

GREG NORMAN: Well, I think from our own personal point of view, if you've been a competitor in the past and you've been successful in the past, no matter where you are in the future, no matter whether it's on a golf course or in business or in life in general, you want to be the best you can be.

So obviously when we go out and play, I want to be the best I can be that week. If that's good enough to win, then it's great. I really strive for success. I like it. I like testing myself under the gun. Sometimes you make mistakes, sometimes people do better than you under the gun, but at the end of the day, to me, it's great to have any victory on your resume because a victory is a victory.

You know, I've always said to me in my whole career, it doesn't matter whether you win major championships or any championship, winning in golf is the pinnacle of anything because you might be fortunate to win a lot of majors and you might be fortunate enough to win one or two or not at all, but then you might be fortunate to win 20 other tournaments. So to me a win is a win. No matter where you win anywhere in the world, it's a tough thing to do because you have to go through the same motions, physically do the same thing, mentally do the same thing. It's just some events have more significance than others. That's all it is. But the title is the title.

Q. I read where some of the British papers gave you a new nickname last week. I wondered how fond you are of the "Great Gray Shark".

GREG NORMAN: Well, that's observant of them. How can they tell with my blond hair anyway? I didn't take my shirt off in front of them, because my chest is gray, I can tell you that. I'm not going to tell you what other parts are gray (laughter).

Q. That's platinum blond.

GREG NORMAN: That's exactly right.

Q. I was wondering, you have such the wine and golf design, the clothes and all. When did that come upon you in your career? Did you see someone like Nicklaus or anybody else that did things beyond the course, or when did you realize that you wanted to try to expand everything there is?

GREG NORMAN: I can tell you exactly when it was. It was in the beginning of 1993. I set myself down a seven year game plan by the year 2000 to set up my business to such a position where I could actually have an option in the year 2000 of saying, okay, I've had enough of golf. I'm done. I enjoy business, let's go forward.

So I made a very conscious effort. It was a seven year game plan that I put into place. Fortunately my game plan for me came forward a little bit quicker. I had achieved a lot of things in my fourth and fifth year, and it's not the easiest thing to set up I'm not an expert in business and business knowledge. I never went to college. I just trusted my instincts. What I did do was understand what avenue I wanted to take, I studied my peers of the past. I studied what Nicklaus did and what Palmer did. They were two totally opposite in their directions they went in their business. Jack was very much independent, went out and did his own thing. Arnold was more endorsement related, and I thought about the greatest thing for longevity to me in life is establishing a brand that you can actually build on.

So obviously I was fortunate, I had a nickname, "Great White Shark," so I established the logo early on in my career, so I used that as a benchmark, and said, okay, now we've got a brand, let's identify the areas of my lifestyle that I like to do. Obviously I like to drink wine, and my clothing line was around before I made that decision anyway, and golf course design business and the development business is another thing that you actually it's something that I wanted to leave for my kids in perpetuity, and a lot of the things I've done with my branding is just that, branding.

I own the branding of the logo, so in perpetuity, there will be this stream coming in. It was a conscious effort to make sure that I did that deliberately and very precisely the way I set it up.

So yes, I identified where I wanted to go, I took a very slow process of doing it, capitalizing your own business early on when you have a lot of people working for you is a very, very expensive proposition, so it takes a long time to establish a brand where you get a good dividend return, and now it's there. Everything now is just it's in a perpetual state of motion, it's going forward, so to me it's another reason why I probably am very much at peace with myself in my life because the things I've done in '93 are really starting to show forth now, and in the next 15 to 25 years for me, unless I really go out there and challenge myself with something else, I'm extremely happy about where I'm going.

Q. You talked about you played last week and you can play competitive on this Tour, but you also said next year you're going to spend a lot of time on the other Tour. How competitive do you foresee yourself getting, and also, major championships, if you play in them, where do you see yourself in those situations?

GREG NORMAN: That's going to be a hard question for me to answer right now. My belief and my goals are, first of all, there's a lot of reason why you want to win a U.S. Open, Senior U.S. Open, because it gets you into the regular U.S. Open. For me to get into the regular U.S. Open, I have to either go and perform extremely well on the regular Tour and get my ranking points up again, or you've got another way of getting in, and it's right here. So goal No. 1. If I can do that, then obviously next year I can build my schedule and calendar around those events.

I don't know what it takes to get into The Masters. I don't think they have a senior U.S. Masters, do they? That would be nice to go back to Augusta in September and play a senior U.S. Masters, wouldn't it?

Yeah, I can build my schedule around the June, July, August period, which I think would be a great way for me for my business, too, because I can do front end of the year do my other things, back end of the year I can do my other things and the three month schedule I can load up.

The big barometer has got to be how I come out of this thing at the end of August, how I physically come out of it. Am I going to be feeling like, okay, I put too much on myself and I couldn't do much about the schedule anyway because the British Open and all the major championships are like back to back to back, so it's going to be an interesting barometer. When I get back from Portland, I'll say, okay, how did we do? What do we do next year, five weeks in a row, three weeks in a row? Have we looked at 2006, getting in the U.S. Open? Other tournaments I wasn't counting on, how do I schedule that with all these tournaments that go into a four or five week schedule? That's why it's very difficult for me to answer the question. A lot of things have to fall into place, and if they fall into place then I'll tell you what my thought process is because I'll either go for it or I won't go for it.

Q. Just to follow up, in September after you get done playing at the Tradition, is it more a physical thing you're looking at or is it going to be how you did over that period of time?

GREG NORMAN: I think it's going to be more of a, did I enjoy being out here again? Hotels are the same. Airports and golf courses, even though I love playing Royal Aberdeen, I love that style of golf, it's different, it's unique, but a lot of the golf courses are the same. Am I enthusiastic enough, do I want to go through all that again next year?

Physically from a golf perspective, playable wise, I don't think there will be an issue. I think it's going to be enthusiasm, desire, all those things that I'll sit down with my family because, like I said, I love being home.

Q. One of the things that you brought up, Ernie Els is in the same boat now that you were 20 years ago, and Nick has talked to him about kind of scaling back and try to more focus on the U.S. Tour, which you actually ended up doing eventually. If you sat down with Ernie right now what advice would you give him?

GREG NORMAN: Ernie has an interesting situation because take golf out of the picture, his kids are going to start going to a school and staying at school for the next 15 years. So he's got to make a choice: Where does he want his kids to grow up, in London or South Africa or the United States. I think he's chosen London. Now he's got an interesting choice. He's basing himself in London from a family perspective, so now it's going to be, do I commute back and forth across the Atlantic, play at home for two weeks, commute back and forth? I don't care how young and fit you are, we all did it, it eventually takes a toll on you. It's going to be difficult for Ernie to maintain that enthusiasm, especially when now the other hard thing is going to be for him I went through this because I never went away for more than two weeks. Three weeks was very rare. You start missing your kids doing things, like whatever sport they want to play, and you're not there for them, they remember that.

We've got to remember we're international players unfortunately. I mean, unfortunately that takes away there's a lot of sacrifice because when you live in America you can always get home on Sunday night and leave Tuesday morning, and when you're an international player, you can't do that. So we lose a lot that the American players don't lose.

I feel for Ernie. I mean, we have spoken about it in the past and I'm sure he's smart enough and got great enough advice around him, he knows what he needs, but he's got to slow down because this running all around the world has caught up to him, I feel. Not his golf game, it is just his head. It tires you out. It's just tough.

RAND JERRIS: Greg, thanks very much for your time this afternoon. We wish you luck this week.

GREG NORMAN: You got it.

End of FastScripts.

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